Washington Post falls for hoax report that Sarah Palin will work for al-Jazeera
Suzi Parker at the Washington Post wrote on Tuesday morning, “The Sarah Palin Story is a cautionary tale about what can happen when politics and celebrity meet.”
There follow several hundred words of rambling non-news about how Palin is “trying to find ways to stay relevant while her 15 minutes faces into the political history books,” after parting ways with Fox News. Parker artfully juxtaposes some factoids about Palin’s popularity in Alaska, and unsupported speculation that she’s been ruined by exposure to reality TV, with an account of Palin’s attendance at the memorial for murdered Navy SEAL Chris Kyle – the implication being that Palin only attended the service to draw attention to herself.
But the marquee element of Parker’s post – the entire reason she wrote the silly, contemptuous piece – was the revelation that Palin would become a contributor for the TV network al-Jazeera bought from al-Gore. Supposedly Palin hoped to use her new perch at al-Jazeera to “reach millions of devoutly religious people.”
It’s a blockbuster revelation that turned out to be based entirely on a hoax… which Parker fell for hook, line, and sinker, apparently making no effort whatsoever to substantiate it, not even through the minimal practice of searching for a single corroborating source online. Parker’s sole source was an obvious parody site, the Daily Currant. She probably didn’t even bother to visit the site, instead building her story around a cut-and-paste of something she received via social media. At the time of this writing, the top story on the Daily Currant is “Catholic Church Considering Jerry Sandusky as Next Pope.”
Parker’s embarrassing piece now begins with one of the funniest “corrections” in journalistic history: “An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that Sarah Palin planned to contribute to the Al Jazeera America news network.” The bogus material has been carefully clipped out, and the piece has been reworded to conceal how prominently it once figured in Parker’s writing, but here’s what it used to say:
Late last week Al Jazeera America announced the former vice-presidential candidate would be joining their news network.
“As you all know, I’m not a big fan of newspapers, journalists, news anchors and the liberal media in general,” Palin told the Web site The Daily Currant. “But I met with the folks at Al-Jazeera and they told me they reach millions of devoutly religious people who don’t watch CBS or CNN. That tells me they don’t have a liberal bias.”
It couldn’t be much more obvious that this is a parody, designed to tickle the funny bones of people with Parker’s biases. Among other clues, that link to “Al Jazeera America” points to Wikipedia.
So it turns out that this is really a “cautionary tale about what can happen” when sloppy reporting, liberal prejudice, and Internet comedians meet. It’s really not that hard to lead mainstream media reporters, pundits, and editors into phony stories – just give them something that fits the “narrative” they already believe in. Just yesterday, on Sarah Palin’s birthday, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post announced the Pope’s resignation on Twitter as follows: “Pope Benedict, following Sarah Palin’s lead, resigns.” Maybe it’s time for the top brass at the Post to do some soul-searching about its unhealthy obsessions. Or could this be more fairly characterized as a desperate search by their writers to “find ways to stay relevant?”
It does not speak well of the Post that they would leave the story in place without a full retraction and apology to Palin, or a complete explanation to readers of where the false material came from.
Update: By the way, here is the full Facebook post from Sarah Palin about the Chris Kyle memorial:
It was a beautiful memorial service for Chris Kyle at Cowboys Stadium this afternoon. What a celebration of a great life! All in all, is there a finer human being who has crossed the 50-yard line star in Texas than Chris Kyle? Please click on the following link for information on how we can help out the families of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. As patriotic Americans, this is a tangible way to show appreciation and support for good people. On a personal note, I thank you who’ve sent birthday greetings today, and it would be awesome if you’d join me in supporting the families of these heroes by helping them out!
The link she referred to points to Bristol Palin’s blog, where you can find a collection of links for charitable causes honoring Kyle and other military veterans.
Update: The Washington Post editorial staff must be having a Real Bad Day, because the disclaimer at the top of Suzi Parker’s post has now mutated to read as follows: “CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that Sarah Palin had signed on as a contributor to the Al Jazeera America news network. The blogger cited a report on the Daily Currant Web site as the basis for that information without realizing that the piece was satirical.” They’ve added the second line to fess up to the way Parker made her “mistake.” Now they’d better just hope none of their readers click over to the Daily Currant, and ask themselves how a major news organization could possibly employ someone who didn’t realize it was a parody site.