Plenty of people fell for a harmless, Onion-esque satire about pizza on Thursday night, but the biggest fish reeled in by the the humor site that likes to reel in big fish appears to be Matt Drudge. For a few brief shining moments on Friday morning, The Drudge Report's splashy top story linked to a "news" report about New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that is not even close to being true.
The story appeared Thursday on The Daily Currant, a satire website that traffics in headlines that are slightly more believable The Onion, but not quite as funny as The Blaze. The Currant previously caught another influential conservative news site, Breitbart.com, believing that Paul Krugman filed for bankruptcy... shortly Breitbart and others called out a Washington Post blogger for taking the bait on a Current story about Sarah Palin. As for this latest game of gotcha, there were plenty of Twitter and Facebook users who passed around the Bloomberg story believing it to be true, but it had pretty thoroughly been debunked by the time it made it Drudge on Friday morning. Yet, he (or an editor) still made it the site's lead story and even tweeted out the link. It lasted only a minute or two, around 8 a.m. Eastern, before the error was realized and the story replaced. (The tweet is still out there for now.)
The Current's tale imagines Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the enemy of gigantic sodas everywhere, being denied seconds at a Brooklyn pizzeria as revenge for his ban on 16-oz. sugary drinks. There were plenty of clues that the story was fake: The mayor of America's largest city holding a budget meeting in a pizzeria; with the indicted city comptroller (who doesn't determine the budget); the fact that the pizza place in question doesn't actually exist; the mayor swearing and calling people "jackass" in public. Also, the site's other headlines displayed in the margins, like "Pope Benedict Comes Out as Gay" and "North Korea Demands to Negotiate With Michael Jordan," should have given the game away. Although some of the others are just boring enough ("Egypt Issues Arrest Warrant For Jon Stewart") to be somewhat believable.
Not sure if the Daily Currant should lauded or mocked for the fact that no one can tell its satire stories are satire.— Jay Yarow (@jyarow) May 3, 2013
Like most fake news stories that catch on and go viral, it's often because the people who spread it really, really want it to be true. The business and economics blog Zero Hedge, which also re-published the story (without fully qualifying it) said, "we should probably suggest that there is a 'modest' element of satire to this piece. Which of course means there is a substantial amount of implicit truth." In other words, it's not a lie if you believe it.