The 6 Stupidest Acts Of Journalistic Fraud Ever Attempted
It's the ongoing dream of every journalist to break the next big news story, be it another Watergate Scandal, O.J. Simpson trial, or Donald Trump announcing his Presidential candidacy via a torrent of dry rectal wheezes. In fact, breaking an important story is such an all-encompassing dream that some reporters won't even think twice about flat-out lying to get that extremely uncomfortable Jacuzzi full of Pulitzer Prizes they all so desperately crave.
TV Station Lazily Edits Peaceful Protest, Makes Everyone Look Like Maniacs
When a local Fox affiliate aired footage of a protest held in the wake of the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two young black men killed by police officers under questionable circumstances, viewers were shocked to hear the crowd chanting, "We won't stop, we can't stop, so kill a cop," like a Miley Cyrus / Ice-T mashup remix.
Calling for the death of a random civil servant is bad enough, but this particular protest followed the murder of two police officers in New York City. Clearly, the race war that Fox has spent the past several years warning everyone about was ready to explode:
Except, of course, for the part where that's not at all what happened. As it turned out, the protesters were actually chanting, "We won't stop, we can't stop, 'til killer cops, are in cell blocks." The news report left out those crucial last four syllables.
This was not an accident. The audio of the video, which was being presented by reporter Melinda Roeder and cameraman Greg McNair, was deliberately altered by looping of the phrase "killer cop" to make the protesters sound like a pack of bloodthirsty psychopaths.
They needed those extra two seconds to cover more sports.
After this shitshow was unearthed, the station apologized to the protesters for taking what was a peaceful call for justice and turning it into a murder chant. Both reporters were dismissed, although Roeder still found the gall to insist that she was "terminated without cause." In her defense, her contract didn't state that maliciously fanning the flames of a nationally sensitive subject was a fireable offense, because if it did, the entire Fox News organization would implode.
Guy Invents A Batshit Sport Called "Monkeyfishing" For No Apparent Reason
In a 2001 article for Slate, Jay Forman described a trip he took to the Florida Keys, during which he witnessed a game wherein fishermen would tie apples to fishing lines and try and catch one of the several dozen monkeys living on an island where they had been bred for medical research purposes. The locals called the sport "monkeyfishing," because honestly, what the hell else would you call it.
Bobbing for poopslingers?
Immediately after the article's publication, the entire region descended on Slate to cry bullshit. The local officials said that they'd never heard of the practice. The research company that owned the monkeys said that the whole tale was impossible. Even the fisherman who accompanied Forman said that he had no goddamn idea what "monkeyfishing" was. In Forman's defense, his article does begin with the words "Once upon a time," which was presumably a subtle clue that the paragraphs that followed were utter fantasy.
Monkeyfishing does exist, but more in a "prelude to Planet Of The Apes" kind of way.
Totally unrelated to the fact that everyone with a pulse was calling him a liar, Forman experienced a crisis of conscience and admitted that he'd made the whole thing up. He had really seen the monkeys, but Forman conceded that rather than rigging an elaborate fishing line to try and catch them, he'd settled for taunting them from his boat. You may recognize this activity as A) not at all related to fishing, and B) something an asshole would do.
Reporter Fakes A Home Invasion To Launch A Pro-Gun Career
In 2010, Emily Miller, a reporter for another Fox affiliate -- WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C. -- was the victim of a terrifying home invasion. She returned to a house where she was staying to find a strange man walking out through the gate. He told her he was there to deliver firewood for the homeowners, but Miller became suspicious and followed him down the street, only to discover a gang of thieves loading stolen goods into the back of some trucks, like the Foot Clan from the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
Indeed, it was only through sheer luck that she was unharmed. Understandably shaken, she obtained a gun carry permit and began speaking at pro-gun rallies, sharing her harrowing story to argue for the need to preserve every American's right to bear arms (read: the need to shoot people to death for trying to take your stuff).
If it's good enough for war, it's good enough for some kid who covets your Xbox.
However, it was later discovered that Miller had embellished certain details in her story, by which we mean they never happened at all.
The Washington Post decided to look into the facts surrounding Miller's home invasion, noticing that it was awfully convenient for her to stumble upon an entire criminal enterprise in her neighborhood. The thing was, the report she filed with the police doesn't mention any of this. She found a guy walking out through the gate who said he was there to deliver firewood, and a few hours later she noticed a credit card had been taken out of her purse (which she had left sitting inside on the kitchen counter) and was being used to make fraudulent purchases. That's it. She didn't use her natural reporting instincts and gumption to follow anyone, and there was no terrifying confrontation with a suburban burglar gang.
On the other hand, "They can have my lockbox when they pry it from my cold, dead hands"
doesn't sound nearly as dramatic.
Of course, that hasn't stopped Miller from turning her near-death experience (which, again, never happened) into a lucrative career. In the years following the incident, Miller amassed a gigantic body of reporting on gun rights and spoke to dozens of advocacy groups, with her only qualification being that she was a victim of a crime that happened to follow every beat of the hypothetical situation pro-gun lobbyists always present to justify the ownership of private arsenals.
She's successfully reduced the number of guns Obama takes away per year from zero to zero.
We get that the fabricated burglary makes her more credible, but this is America, goddammit. You can pretty much buy a pinata full of handguns, should the mood strike you. Miller didn't need to invent a story about being the victim of a crime in order to be a Second Amendment advocate. That's like pretending you survived a shark attack in order to become a lifeguard.
Reporter Claims She Was Thrown Out Of A Mosque, Security Cameras Reveal She Just Left
An English reporter named Cathy Newman visited the South London Islamic Center as part of "National Visit My Mosque Day," an initiative in London meant to educate people about the Muslim faith. Shortly after entering, however, she was shown the door by a male congregant, because their horribly misogynistic organization didn't want any dumb ol' females stinking up the joint. At least, that's the story she posted on Twitter, which was later picked up by several media sites, because context-free social media posts are news now.
The story blew up, and the mosque began receiving threatening phone calls and general Internet harassment for being sexist bullies.The problem is that the whole story was bullshit.
You see, Newman was supposed to meet some co-workers at a mosque to cover Visit My Mosque Day, but she mixed up which mosque she was supposed to go to. Security camera footage from the South London Islamic Centre shows her walking inside and looking confused, at which point a male congregant, assuming she is lost (she was), comes up to her and directs her to the church next door, thinking she had simply walked into the mosque by mistake. Then she walks out, lingering in front of the building for a bit as if trying to determine whether she'd come to the correct place before leaving. That's it. She wasn't "ushered out," as she claimed in her tweets, and she certainly wasn't kicked out for being a woman (the congregation has several female members).
The mosque, which had initially apologized to Newman, was understandably upset to learn that she'd basically invented her experience. For her part, Newman heroically declined to explain why she'd slandered a place of worship for no conceivable reason. Although she did apologize for any misunderstanding and offered to visit the South London Islamic Center again in the future, because for some reason, she thought a return visit from the person who earned them death threats would be a real gift.
Russian TV Reporter Starts A Wildfire To Do A Story About Wildfires
Mikhail Akinchenko was a journalist for Russia's Channel One who was tasked with covering a wildfire that was ravaging an area of Siberia called Khakassia. Wanting his report to convey the appropriate level of danger and urgency, Akinchenko set fire to an area of grassland behind him in order to provide a more exciting background for his coverage. That's right -- he set fire to the one of the few places in Khakassia that wasn't on fire to make his report look more badass.
Which, if you ignore the complete lack of fire, he totally pulled off.
A local resident happened to notice Akinchenko setting fire to the goddamned wilderness and reported him, at which point he admitted to staging the disaster. Channel One decried his actions as "pure negligence," because sometimes you simply have to call a spade a spade.
It is unclear why Akinchenko didn't just set his camera up in front of an actual fire, of which there was plenty to go around. Meanwhile, the police began investigating his baffling antics as a potential case of arson. (The word "potential" is being used liberally here, as Akinchenko readily admitted to recklessly setting something on fire, which is the literal definition of arson.)
Interviewer Pulls Heroically Baffling Celebrity Anecdotes Out Of His Ass
As we've been discussing, journalists with a mind full of fabrication generally take the path of least resistance when it comes to faking stories. However, that can't be said for Tom Kummer, a journalist whose fake celebrity interviews are works of art.
Instead of writing imaginary celebrity interviews full of softball "how was making your movie"-type questions that he might have been able to get away with, Kummer decided to go one step further and invent entire pseudo-philosophical conversations with celebrities, including Bruce Willis, Pamela Anderson, and Courtney Love, all of which have them spout utterly bizarre statements -- the kind you'd typically only hear waiting in line to use the bathroom at a rave. According to some of Kummer's utterly fake, never-really-happened interviews, Mike Tyson is well-versed in the writings of Nietzsche, Bruce Willis believes morality is an outdated social construct, and Pamela Anderson is a huge fan of the famed cyberpunk science-fiction novel Neuromancer.
"I found how no one called the drug-addicted hacker guy 'babe' particularly inspiring."
The weird thing is that the interviews were great, which is what happens when you get to make up the most interesting possible answers to your questions. If given complete reign over celebrities, we'd wind up writing about how Christian Ricci has a paralyzing phobia of the theme song to the '90s X-Men cartoon, so you almost have to admire the fact that Kummer wasn't out to make any of his alleged interview subjects look ridiculous.
The part where he made a movie to profit off of disgracing his entire industry? Slightly less admirable.
However, people generally don't enjoy having words put into their mouths, even if those words are kind of flattering. After several of the celebrities Kummer supposedly interviewed complained that they had no memory of ever making those statements, to Kummer or anyone else, the scam was revealed and Kummer was fired (although whether it's possible to be fired from a job you've never truly performed is an entirely different discussion). In his own defense, Kummer argued that his work was "borderline journalism," and as such he didn't need to be constrained by things like "the truth" and "actually conducting interviews." As it stands, Kummer's version of journalism lies somewhere between fanfiction and a letter from Santa Claus.
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