MSNBC Reports Really, Really Fake News

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MSNBC.com reported yesterday that Michael Vick’s dogfighting case is dividing African American leaders into two camps—one that criticizes the quarterback’s cruelty to animals, and another whose members think his persecution is driven by a racist agenda. Supposedly leading the latter is the Reverend Al Sharpton, who the news group quotes at length.

The problem, as Gawker and National Review Online have noted, is that not one word of the attribution came out of Sharpton’s mouth. To the contrary, it came from News Groper [full disclosure: the associate editor was a fact-checker—can you feel the irony?—for Mother Jones], a website made up entirely of satirical celebrity blog entries. Sharpton can be pretty dramatic sometimes, but it’s surprising that reporter Alex Johnson wasn’t given any pause by the absurdity of the “quote”:

“If the police caught Brett Favre (a white quarterback for the Green Bay Packers) running a dolphin-fighting ring out of his pool, where dolphins with spears attached to their foreheads fought each other, would they bust him? Of course not,” Sharpton wrote Tuesday on his personal blog. “They would get his autograph, commend him on his tightly spiraled forward passes, then bet on one of his dolphins.”

MSNBC got hip to the error and, rather than apologize to its readers for astoundingly sloppy reporting, posted in a correction that it “has determined that the blog is a hoax.” The correction doesn’t mention what tipped the news organization’s meticulous fact-checkers off: News Groper‘s logo, which is a hand moving toward two globes that look like giant balls, or maybe breasts; Al Sharpton sharing a blog site with Lindsay Lohan, George Bush, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; or the words “fake parody blogs” in the title bar of every page.

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It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

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