News Orgs Fall Victim to Fake Press Release

Chamber of Commerce release a hoax

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBCWashington.com
    A fake U.S. Chamber of Commerce press release.

    A U.S. Chamber of Commerce press release Monday touting a change in position on climate change turned out to be hoax, but not before coverage was broadcast on CNBC and reported in at least two major newspapers.

    A fake press release was created alerting the media of the Chamber's "change" in position, saying it was going to back strong government regulation on climate control.

    "We believe that strong climate legislation is the best way to ensure American innovation, create jobs, and make sure the U.S. and the world are on track to reduce global carbon emissions, and to provide for the needs of the American business community for generations to come," said the spokesman, Hingo Sembra.

    The press release included the Chamber's logo. However, the URL included in the press release sent people to chamber-of-commerce.us, not the Chamber's official Web site, uschamber.com.

    CNBC broke into programming to inform viewers about the announcement, which turned out to be fake. Politico gives its account:

    A CNBC anchor interrupted herself mid-sentence Monday morning to announce that the network had “breaking news,” then cut away to reporter Hampton Pearson, who read from the fake press release.

    Pearson quickly followed up with a second report saying the “so-called bulletin” was an “absolute hoax.” Smelling a rat, CNBC’s Larry Kudlow demanded to know whether the White House had been involved.

    Not to be outdone, Reuters also took the bait, pushing out a story picked up by the Washington Post and the New York Times. The story was pulled from the Post Web site, while the Times updated its version with Reuters' correction.

    Politico said AVAAZ Action Factory was responsible for the release, although an earlier report said a left-leaning activist group called The Yes Men claimed the hoax as its own.  Balloon Boy was another popular guess...

    Meanwhile, the real U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a terse statement about the incident:

    "Public relations hoaxes undermine the genuine effort to find solutions on the challenge of climate change. These irresponsible tactics are a foolish distraction from the serious effort by our nation to reduce greenhouse gases. The U.S. Chamber believes that strong climate legislation is compatible with the goals of improving our economy and creating jobs. We continuously seek opportunities to engage in a constructive dialogue to achieve these goals. We will be asking law enforcement authorities to investigate this event. Beyond that, the Chamber will simply continue to focus on a positive vision for getting people back to work and growing our economy."