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Ahmadinejad more Popular than Obama? Iranian News Agency Tricked by the Onion

The satirical news website, The Onion, published a story on shocking poll results. The Iranian FARS News Agency was quick to republish the obviously fake story.
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H/T Arsen Ostrovsky.

On Sept. 24, the satirical site ‘The Onion’ “led” with a story on shocking poll results:

Here’s the text from the story:

CHARLESTON, WV—According to the results of a Gallup poll released Monday, the overwhelming majority of rural white Americans said they would rather vote for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than U.S. president Barack Obama. “I like him better,” said West Virginia resident Dale Swiderski, who, along with 77 percent of rural Caucasian voters, confirmedhe would much rather go to a baseball game or have a beer with Ahmadinejad, a man who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and has had numerous political prisoners executed, than spend time with Obama. “He takes national defense seriously, and he’d never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does.” According to the same Gallup poll, 60 percent of rural whites said they at least respected that Ahmadinejad doesn’t try to hide the fact that he’s Muslim.

Naturally – at least to any sane reader, or anyone familiar with The Onion (which is truly an equal opportunity mocker) – the piece was satire, based partly on regional popularity disparities for Obama’s and the Democratic Party. The Onion, as they typically do, decided to take this truthful dynamic and take it to the most ludicrous, and obviously unserious, level – which is often the basis of effective satire.

Ludicrous, yes – but, evidently, not entirely implausible for the editors of the English version of the Iranian news agency, known as “FARS”.

The Onion largely refrained from mocking FARS, but did add this addendum to their original “report” on American whites’ endorsement of Ahmadinejad.

A few days later, the “news agency” realized their mistake and apologized – which represents a much faster mea-culpa turn-around time than is typically the case at a supposedly serious newspaper based in London.

Here’s what they wrote:

“Unfortunately an incorrect item was released on our website on Friday which included a fake opinion poll on popularity rate of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and US President Barack Obama. The news item was extracted from the Satirical Magazine, The Onion, by mistake and it was taken down from our outlook in less two hours,” Editor-in-chief of FNA’s English Service said.

“We offer our formal apologies for that mistake,” he added.

“FNA makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of its reports, however very occasionally mistakes do happen,” he said.

“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,” he added.

Active and well-known media occasionally make mistakes, and no media is an exception to this rule.

In FARS’s defense, it is true that “active and well-known media occasionally make mistakes.”

In fact, a few months ago the Guardian made the following, umm, “mistake”, informing their readers definitively that Tel Aviv was the Israeli capital.

While FARS news agency can claim that they were duped into publishing a fact-free report by a satirical site they were previously unfamiliar with, I’m still wondering what excuse the Guardian has for their (Style-Guide approved) gross disinformation.

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About the Author: Adam Levick serves as Managing Editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), and is a member of the Online Antisemitism Working Group for the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism. Adam made Aliyah from Philadelphia in 2009 and lives with his wife in Modi'in.


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