The world and Venezuela are anxiously awaiting for Hugo Chavez's first public appearance since fleeing to Cuba for cancer treatment last year. That's why the Spanish paper El Pais decided to run a picture of what they thought was an intubated Chavez. There was on problem was: it wasn't him.
The paper, which is the biggest in Spain and is also distributed across Latin America, ran the fake image on their front page:
The headline to that is "The Secret of Hugo Chavez's Illness" and it would have been a major international scoop. But, that guy isn't Chavez. That's just some random intubated man. There aren't details of how El Pais finally found out they had been duped, but the news organization spent Thursday stopping the presses, pulling early editions off of newsstands and issuing an online apology (the image remained on the web for half an hour):
El Pais apologizes to its readers for the damage caused. The newspaper has opened an investigation to determine the circumstances of what happened and the errors that were committed in the verification of the photo.
The paper claimed they were given the photo by a news agency, and there are reports that El Pais paid for the phony image. Obviously, the temptation to believe in the scoop was strong. The Venezuelan government hasn't been forthright about the status of Chavez since he underwent his fourth cancer surgery last month, and as Reuters reports, Chavez hasn't been seen at all for six weeks. "The Venezuelan government called the photo 'grotesque,'" according to the BBC.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.