Even though a fake email last night announcing the Service Employees International Union's un-endorsement of President Obama's reelection was quickly contained, the hoaxer himself refused the drop his act with political reporters even when confronted over the phone. The hoax email from one "Mark McCullough," a known spokesperson for the powerful labor union representing 1.8 million workers, hit the inboxes of Beltway reporters last night at around 11:40 p.m. last night and had some clever trappings that at first glance made it seem legit, as Talking Points Memo reports. The email was from the handle "mark.mcullough" (one C off from "McCullough"), included a working contact number, and was formatted in convincing enough press-release fashion.
But the would-be shocking withdrawal of the union's support didn't trip up people for long. The real Mark McCullough spent the night calling reporters to tell them it wasn't real, while reporters like the Talking Point Memo's Ryan J. Reilly, the National Journal's Marc Ambinder, and Politico's Ken Vogel called the D.C.-based Google Voice phone number provided in the release to verify the story. And even when it became clear around 1 a.m. that the entire un-endorsement was fake, the hoaxer on the other end of the line wouldn't come clean. Ambinder says that the person on the other end of the phone "dutifully repeat[ed] the content from the release" and Vogel tweets that while the prankster he called denied that it was hoax when asked, he quickly hung up when confronted about the misspelling of "McCullough" in the email address. But he took it a step further with TPM's Reilly. When confronted about the hoax, the fake McCullough said, “Basically, I said what needed to be said there, basically there was a backlash amongst our members, this is all on background, it was basically voiced internally that it was a little bit too soon to be endorsing Obama at this point in the game." He deflected when confronted by Reilly again, responding "I’m verifying the legitimacy of this press release and I have a reporter here telling me it’s a hoax, so I’m not sure how to really proceed in this conversation." And a bit later in the conversation, he denies one final third time: "Ryan, please. You’ve spent a lot of my time." We could say the same thing.
(For the record, when we called the fake McCullough, it went straight to voicemail. "Hi, this is Mark...")