Onion leaves Iranian agency scarlet


An Iranian news agency has reported as fact an entirely fictitious survey carried on The Onion website earlier this week which claimed that most rural white Americans would vote for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ahead of Barack Obama.

The English-language service of Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency republished the spoof story from the satirical website word-for-word. 

It even went so far as to include a made-up quote from a fictional West Virginia resident it idendified as Dale Swidersk who claimed he would rather go to a baseball game with Mr Ahmadinejad because “he takes national defence seriously and he’d never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does”.

Homosexuality is illegal in Iran and anyone found breaking its strict laws on sexuality risks the death penalty. During a speech at Columbia University in 2007 Mr Ahmadinejad told the audience that “in Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”

The Onion story also cites a Gallup poll, which it says found that 60 per cent of rural whites “at least respected that Ahmadinejad doesn’t try to hide the fact that he’s Muslim”

In fact the only change made to the Onion story by Fars was the excision of a line describing the Iranian president as “a man who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and has had numerous political prisoners executed.”

The Onion story was later modified to include the line “For more on this story: Please visit our Iranian subsidiary organization.”

The Onion styles itself as “America’s finest news source” and yesterday its editor Will Tracy released a statement in which he said his site “freely shares content with Fars and commends the journalists at Iran’s Finest News Source on their superb reportage”.

Realising that it had been spoofed, the Iranian news agency removed the story from its site early this morning and anyone following the link was greeted with a single white page with phrase “Error For Your Request . Not Exist This Story.”

The Iranian news agency is not the first organisation to be carried away by the Onion. Ten years ago the Beijing Evening News, lifted a story from the site which claimed members of Congress had threatened to abandon Washington unless the building where they worked was refurbished to include more bathrooms and a retractable dome.