Great Falsies!: Vote for Your Favorite Fake News of 2007


With all the misinformation being presented as news these days, it might seem hard to pick a clear winner among all the propaganda out there. But the fake FEMA news conference, in which FEMA staffers lobbed softball questions at their boss, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson Jr., might be a good place to start. “Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?” asked one staffer. You betcha!

The Center for Media and Democracy is asking for the public’s help in picking the winners of its “Falsies Awards,” which “recognize the people and players responsible for polluting our information environment.”

The online poll closes on November 30, so vote early and often. There’s a lot to choose from— a phony text-message-the-troops program to campaigns to undermine breast feeding— among the center’s 13 nominees.

The Center for Media and Democracy described the fake FEMA conference:

As the wildfires raged in California, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency held a news briefing, which was carried on Fox News, MSNBC and other outlets. However, reporters were only given 15 minutes’ advance notice, and the phone number they were given to call in was a “listen only” line, so they weren’t able to ask questions. Who, then, were the “reporters” who lobbed softball questions to FEMA administrator Harvey Johnson such as, “Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?” It turns out that they were FEMA staffers. The agency’s press secretary, Aaron Walker, directed aides to pose as reporters, secretly coached them during the briefing and ended the event after a final, scripted question was asked. Walker has since resigned, and another FEMA staffer, Director of External Affairs John Philbin, was slated to start a new job under Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, but the offer has since been rescinded.

Pretty scary, but it wasn’t even the first time that fake news passed as real news on TV.