On Tuesday, Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends” aired at least eight segments on a purported “news” story that was actually a parody article written by a publication similar to The Onion.
The backstory: Last week in the town of Lewiston, Maine, a group of Somalian Muslim middle school students were the subject of a cruel prank when their peers placed a ham steak next to them in order to personally offend the students. School officials filed a report because the students considered the act to be a hate/bias crime.
This actual story was then spoofed by a parody site called Associated Content, which made up quotes and details, such as the school’s intention to “create an anti-ham ‘response plan.’”
On Tuesday, Fox & Friends reported these parody quotes and details as actual news. Poking fun at the students, hosts asked whether ham was “a hate crime…or lunch?” and showed screen shots of ham sandwiches, starving Somalians, belching, animal noises, and mock “reenactments” of the incident. Ironically, the hosts assured viewers several times, “We’re not making this up!”
Watch a compilation:
Fox’s careless blunder made news in the town and “launched an immediate avalanche of angry phone calls and ugly e-mails to the school system.”
In the parody, the ham steak became a ham sandwich. Fake quotes were attributed to Superintendent Leon Levesque, Stephen Wessler of the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence, and one of the Somali students targeted in the incident. […]Following the Fox broadcast, Levesque’s office received dozens of angry phone calls and profanity-laced e-mails, made and sent by people all over the country, who charge the school district overreacted to what they believed from news reports to be a ham sandwich tossed at a Somali student. […]
“Fox has figured out, from the calls we’ve gotten, that they’ve made a big mistake,” Wessler said.
“This is a wake-up call that the level of hate and anger, among a small population, is vibrant,” he added.
Levesque said he was bothered not only that the parody took aim at a sensitive issue in Lewiston, but also that Fox and others reported the information as fact without checking. The national media, Levesque said, sees information posted online and “uses it as gospel.”
We’ve long known Fox News’ reporting was parody, but reporting parody news is a new low.