Update: See below
The Internet's finest satirists hooked a big fish in the media world last night. In an embarrassing segment on her MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow slammed conservatives for attacking President Obama's Egypt policies. Her targets included Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, former ambassador to the UN John Bolton and Stephenson Billings at ChristWire.org. Only problem is Stephenson Billings is not a real person. He's a fictional byproduct of a website that also warns readers that the Xbox Kinect is a terrorist training tool and the Japanese have created scary robot babies which "threaten humanity."
The article that caught Maddow's eye called for an "American-led invasion" into Egypt and begged former Alaska governor Sarah Palin to lead the war cry.
"The escalating crisis in Egypt could become a defining moment for Sarah Palin," Billings wrote. "Governor Palin needs to speak out publicly and forcibly for an American-led invasion to protect our interests in North Africa."
In the following clip (which MSNBC scrubbed from its website) Maddow falls for the article hook, line and sinker:
The fact that ChristWire isn't a sincere Christian web forum has been a difficult lesson for the mainstream media to learn—especially NBC and its affiliates. The Atlantic Wire first outed ChristWire last July, when NBC's New York and Los Angeles affiliates published an article about the Christian right boycotting actor Bill Murray. NBC's Drew Magary linked to a ChristWire article calling Murray a "murderer of lambs" and a "fatal disease" to America's children. The article's author? Stephenson Billings. Maybe the company should flag this guy in its employee handbook.
Now to Maddow's credit, her blog acknowledged the mistake quickly after the broadcast aired. Last night, the Maddow Blog tweeted:
The bad news about a free and open internet? Sometimes you get had by brilliant satirists. Christwire: 1 TRMS: 0
Maddow's humility sparkles in comparison to The Huffington Post's, which upon being duped by ChristWire last August, simply erased parts of the article that showed they weren't in on the joke. In that instance, ChristWire had published an advice guide for women on how to tell if their husbands are gay. The mistake caught the attention of The New York Times which pressed the website on the issue and finally elicited a concession. “We did get hoodwinked,” Huffington Post spokesperson Mario Ruiz admitted.
C'mon people. Google searches! They're not that hard.
Update: Business Insider reports that Maddow will "address" the ChristWire blunder tonight on her show. Tune in!
Update 2: Here's the clip:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.