The fake political press release

The fake political press release
I’m calling the real Mark, right?

First, a bit of political background. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had endorsed President Barack Obama’s re-election for president in 2012. Then, a later press release claimed that they had decided to withdraw their support.  This would have been big news if it was true, but it was not. So why did reporters initially believe it, and how was it quickly debunked?

The email seemed to have come from Mark McCullough, who’s the Political Communications Coordinator at SEIU. But his name in the email was actually missing the letter "c" and was spelled MarkMCullough, so although it may have looked good on first glance, the email address was false.

Once the real Mr. McCullough found out about the fake press release, he explained to reporters that it was a spoof, probably via both emails and phone calls.

Since the fake press release contained a phone number, Ryan J. Reilly from the blog Talking Points Memo gave it a call.

The prankster kept up the game and refused to admit that both the release and Mr. MCullough were fake, even when Mr. Reilly tried to get him to explain the agenda behind the prank.

Mr. Reilly said that by 1 a.m., the hoax was over.

So why didn’t this work?

  1. The fake name might have worked initially to get attention, but wouldn’t some reporters have then replied to real Mark via their own email lists or phone numbers? The prankster should have made sure that real Mark was out of the office and unavailable. Fake Mark did send it out at 11:40 pm. Maybe he was hoping that real Mark was a heavy sleeper.  All real Mark had to do – and likely did do – was send out an email and make some calls to debunk the hoax.
  2. The fake press release should have been leaked to specific sources who would have been less likely to check if it was true, and more likely to publish it, thus getting the faux ball rolling.
  3. Once "the jig was up", fake Mark should have explained the reasoning behind the hoax, thus getting his point of view connected to a story about a hoax that didn’t quite work.

Here’s the fake press release:

SEIU Withdraws 2012 Presidential Endorsement
 Published 7:49 AM Eastern – Wednesday, December 7, 2011
 Mark McCullough, [redacted]

Working people deserve a candidate that represents their interests, not just Wall Street’s.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) voted last night to withdraw its endorsement of President Barack Obama for re-election in 2012.

The vote by SEIU’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) came after rank-and-file members of the nation’s fastest growing union expressed concerns it was much too early to be endorsing any candidate in the 2012 race. It does not mean SEIU is endorsing any of President Obama’s rivals.

"We remain hopeful that President Obama will do more than just talk about standing up for the interests of hard-working Americans," said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. "Our members gave $60.7 million dollars to the Obama campaign in 2008 and fought hard for his election because we were promised change. We’re still waiting."

"The Republican Party is in shambles because voters are tired of politicians putting the interests of Wall Street ahead of the working class," added Henry. "President Obama still needs to show he is different."

Fake Press Release Claims SEIU Withdrew Endorsement Of Obama, TPM>>

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