Hoaxes, Fake Quotes & Fake Stories: Best of 2012

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10) CNBC hoaxed by email interview about NBA Escorts

Seven months after his story claiming escort services were financially suffering because of the 2011 National Basketball Association lockout, CNBC’s Darren Rovell apologized, corrected, and explained he was “duped by a ‘source.'”

The source had responded with his phony escort business story to Rovell’s November tweet looking for sources and Rovell conducted the interview by email.  The trickster later got in touch with Deadspin to detail his hoax.

[CNBC NBA Escort Hoax]

9) Fake Sue Paterno quotes

Penn State University’s student newspaper The Daily Collegian suspended one of its writers after he used particularly gutsy fake quotes.  The student made up quotes he claimed were said by Sue Paterno said, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s widow.

The student also lifted without credit “parts of the quotes as well as other facts,” according to the newspaper’s report.

[Joe Paterno’s Wife Didn’t Say That]

8) Hoax about China censoring Titanic scenes

A Chinese social media post originally labeled as satire claimed that the country’s censors axed nude scenes from the re-release of the film Titanic. The post was supported by a phony quote from the government’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.  But, as the story was circulated, people were unaware the story wasn’t real.

Many U.S. outlets, including The Hollywood Reporter, the Huffington Post and MSNBC reported on the fake censorship or the fake quote.

[Titanic Nude Scenes Hoax]

7) The Onion is Satire

Longstanding satire publication The Onion duped two countries’ state-run publications with (satirical) complimentary stories on Iran and North Korean leaders.

Iran’s Fars News Agency apologized Sept. 30 for reporting that a poll of Americans found “rural whites prefer [Iran president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad to Obama.”  Fars apparently copied-and-pasted The Onion’s fake poll report without either giving credit or noting the story wasn’t real.  Fars did later take the story down but added that it found the poll believable, writing:

“Although it does not justify our mistake, we do believe that if a free opinion poll is conducted in the US, a majority of Americans would prefer anyone outside the US political system to President Barack Obama and American statesmen.”

And in November, Chinese Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily reported on The Onion’s satirical story naming Kim Jong-Un as the “Sexiest Man Alive.”

People’s Daily quoted The Onion’s story describing Kim as having a “devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame” and being “every woman’s dream come true.”

[Iran: Ahmadinejad > Obama, China: Kim Jong-Un is the ‘Sexiest Man Alive’]

6) Fake Celeb Sperm Service , News outlets correct

A viral marketing promotion touting a new “celebrity sperm donor service” hoaxed UK and Canadian news outlets this October. Outlets including the UK Sun, the UK Telegraph, the Canadian Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun all reported on Fame Daddy as a real service.

[Celeb Sperm Bank?]

5) Abe Lincoln created Facebook??

Old Honest Abe was the subject of a May lie engineered by blogger Nate St. Pierre.

St. Pierre had blogged that he discovered in Illinois’s Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum that Lincoln had “patented the basic idea” for Facebook.  But, the museum denied the claims, and said it never met with St. Pierre.

Forbes, the Next Web, ZDNet and Buzzfeed all published stories about St. Pierre’s claims before they were revealed as hoax.

St. Pierre noted later that “virtually nobody checked with me to ask if it was true” before reporting on his story.

4) This American Life and Mike Daisey’s Apple Monologue

In March, public radio’s This American Life admitted, retracted and apologized for Mike Daisey’s monlogue on Apple, which had been revealed as containing fabricated elements. Daisey’s monologue was the show’s “single most popular podcast.”

In the show’s retraction press release, host Ira Glass explained there were some warning signs – like fact checking issues – but the show decided to trust Daisey.

Daisey initially defended his program as “theater” but later apologized for having “violated [audience’s] trust.”

[This American Life]

3) Paresh Jha

Weekly newspsaper the New Canaan News revealed that as of June 22, the Connecticut paper had “found 25 stories…over the last year and a half that contain quotes from nonexistent sources.”

The Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists had awarded Jha the month before Jha was exposed as a fabricator. The chapter launched a review of Jha’s entries and revoked his first place award because the  story included fake sources.  Jha was allowed to keep his third place award for a separate story because the SPJ review “found no evidence of deception.”

[Paresh Jha]

2) Cape Cod Times: Our Reporter Fabricated

Not to be outdone with the most fabrication, daily Massachussetts newspaper the Cape Cod Times apologized this month for a longtime reporter’s extensive fabrication.  Saying they were “heartbroken,” the paper’s publisher and editor explained Karen Jeffrey, who had worked for the paper for more than 30 years, faked sources in more than 30 stories.

[Cape Cod Times: More than 30 stories have phony sources]
1) News outlets retract Dentist Hoax

Numerous major, mainstream media outlets including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post and Fox News were tricked in May by a phony story claiming a Polish dentist pulled all of her ex’s teeth out.

iMediaEthics tracked how several publications that had been hoaxed handled it : some like the Huffington Post posted retractions, but others, including Yahoo News posted just an “update.”

[Dentist Hoax]

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Hoaxes, Fake Quotes & Fake Stories: Best of 2012

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