USA Today admitted to being hoaxed by a parody Twitter account for Ammon Bundy, who is part of the armed group occupying a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon.
In a Jan. 6 correction and note to readers, USA Today explained it didn’t know the account was a hoax. The note reads:
“To our readers: As you can see, our Jan. 5 story about Twitter restoring a suspended account of Ammon Bundy, the Nevada rancher leading a group of armed men occupying federal buildings at theMalheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, has been removed. The reporting was based solely on quotes from a Twitter account under Ammon Bundy’s name, and posts on the account now claim it was a parody. We wanted to share our decision with you in the interest of transparency.”
USA Today also included the first paragraph of the story in question, which reported on the Twitter account being suspended. That paragraph reads:
“The Twitter social media site on Tuesday restored the suspended the account of Ammon Bundy, the Nevada rancher who is leading a group of armed men occupying federal buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.”
iMediaEthics has written to USA Today to ask how it attempted to verify the Twitter account before puboication.
“We feel the best terms for the armed men who took over the wildlife refuge are ‘armed men,’ ‘armed ranchers’ and so forth,” Kent wrote. “We also continue in each story to make their demands clear: that ranchers and others be free to use the federal lands in question without federal oversight. We’re trying to avoid terms like ‘militia’ and ‘militiamen,’ though they have appeared in some of our past stories.”
Kent explained that the term “‘militiamen’ might be confusing— readers might think that the people involved are members of a government-sanctioned paramilitary force who are rebelling against government authority.”