A strange story is bouncing round the internets at present.
An Iranian news agency has apologised after being fooled by a spoof story from a US satirical website.
Fars news agency said on its website that its news item “was extracted” from the Onion website on Friday, but was taken down in less than two hours.
The Onion’s story claimed that rural Americans preferred Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Barack Obama.
Fars’ editor-in-chief said he still believed that US politicians were deeply unpopular with their public.
The Iranian version copied the original word-for-word, even including a made-up quote from a fictional West Virginia resident who says he’d rather go to a baseball game with Ahmadinejad because “he takes national defense seriously, and he’d never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does.”
Homosexual acts are punishable by death in Iran, and Ahmadinejad famously said during a 2007 appearance at Columbia University that “in Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”
The Iranian version of the article leaves out only The Onion’s description of Ahmadinejad as “a man who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and has had numerous political prisoners executed.”
Onion editor Will Tracy put out a tongue-in-cheek statement that referred to Fars as “a subsidiary of The Onion” that has acted as the paper’s Middle Eastern bureau since it was founded in the mid-1980s by Onion publisher T. Herman Zweibel.
“The Onion freely shares content with Fars and commends the journalists at Iran’s Finest News Source on their superb reportage,” Tracy said in jest.
The story has an interesting twist in its tail though. As of the time of writing the top article returned by a google news search, using the most obvious keywords “Iran Onion,” provides this previous (Feb 2012) and yet remarkably prescient article from The Onion’s back catalogue:
Iran Worried U.S. Might Be Building 8,500th Nuclear Weapon
TEHRAN—Amidst mounting geopolitical tensions, Iranian officials said Wednesday they were increasingly concerned about the United States of America’s uranium-enrichment program, fearing the Western nation may soon be capable of producing its 8,500th nuclear weapon. “Our intelligence estimates indicate that, if it is allowed to progress with its aggressive nuclear program, the United States may soon possess its 8,500th atomic weapon capable of reaching Iran,” said Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, adding that Americans have the fuel, the facilities, and “everything they need” to manufacture even more weapons-grade fissile material.