The UK Mirror fell for fake quotes attributed to American televangelist Pat Robertson about the June shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The fake quotes claimed Robertson said the shooting was God’s reaction to the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Roberson complained to UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation about the June 12 online article “US televangelist Pat Robertson says Orlando shootings are ‘God’s punishment’ for same sex marriage.” The quotes attributed to Robertson were from a parody website www.politicalo.com.
The satire website claimed that a “very distressed” Robertson told the Orlando Sentinel the shooting was “how God is punishing us for the shameful SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage, a catastrophic piece of legislature that I have so vigorously attempted to shoot down. I kept repeating it during every single episode of The 700 Club, but nobody wanted to believe poor, old Pat. Everybody thought me for a fool. Well, I hope this is a step in the right direction. I hope people will finally start to see the light after this.”
The article went on to claim Robertson said Supreme Court Justices didn’t “care” about U.S. citizens because they didn’t show up after the shooting and that he eats “healthy protein shakes and works out every day” and lifts “1,000 pounds.”
IPSO reported that Robertson “said that the stories on the website are accompanied by a button labelled ‘show facts’ which, once clicked, highlights which elements of the story are accurate, and which are not; he said that this feature made it obvious that the website’s stories are parodies, and are not true.”
(GLAAD has a collection of comments Robertson has made about LGBT people though.)
Below, see a screenshot of the article, via Snopes.
After Robertson complained to the Mirror, the newspaper deleted the article, which had only been published for about two hours, and then posted a correction admitting the quotes were fake. The correction, which was on the Mirror‘s website homepage for ten hours and still is on the website, reads:
“On 12 June 2016, we published an article about US religious broadcaster Dr Pat Robertson under the headline “Orlando shootings are ‘God’s punishment’ for same-sex marriage, claims US TV evangelist Pat Robertson”. It has since been brought to our attention that Dr Robertson never made such claims. The statement that appeared in our article originated on a parody news website in the US and the statements are untrue. We are happy to clarify this position.”
Robertson wasn’t satisfied with the Mirror‘s response or the prominence of the correction, according to IPSO. The Mirror, however, argued that it was a “fast-developing story” and that it quickly responded to being tricked and Robertson’s complaints.
IPSO ruled that the Mirror did respond to the complaint appropriately, but should have taken greater care to fact check. As such, IPSO said the Mirror broke the accuracy clause of the editor’s code. Despite ruling against the Mirror, IPSO said the newspaper handled the correction appropriately and wasn’t required to do anything else to rectify the matter.
iMediaEthics has contacted the Mirror for comment.
On Robertson’s website, there is an undated press statement about the comments being false and stating that Robertson’s employer the Christian Broadcasting Network wanted apologies from duped news sites. The statement reads, in part, “Contrary to some news reports, Pat Robertson did not make any statements about the tragic shooting in Orlando. The comments that are being reported were taken from a satire website and reported as if they were true. CBN has asked for an apology from those news outlets and the CBN legal team will be reviewing this matter.”