Iran news agency apologizes for ‘Onion’ poll spoof goof


Iran’s Fars News Agency has apologized to readers for running a spoof poll taken from the satirical American newspaper, “The Onion.” The satire item–run briefly as a straight news item on Fars Friday–cited a fake Gallup ‘poll’ claiming white American rural voters favor Iran’s lame-duck president Ahmadinejad over Obama.

“Unfortunately an incorrect item was released on our website on Friday which included a fake opinion poll on popularity rate of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and US President Barack Obama,” Fars News Agency’s editor in chief said in an apology note published on Fars’ English language-website Sunday. “The news item was extracted from the Satirical Magazine, The Onion, by mistake and it was taken down from our outlook in less two hours.”

“We offer our formal apologies for that mistake,” the editor’s apology continued, before noting that it’s not the only media outlet to have been “duped” by the Onion.

“On April 25, 2011, The New York Times admitted they made the mistake of treating a fake creation from The Onion as something legitimate,” it said.

As news of the lost-in-translation spoof goof went viral late last week, Israel’s consulate in New York was among those who couldn’t resist poking fun at the Iranian outlet. The diplomatic mission’s social media crew took to Twitter to inform Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei himself of the IRGC-linked news agency’s error.

But it is perhaps notable that the Iran-West news-cultural divide at least is not so unbridgeable that Fars figured out its mistake, and moved in its own awkward way to fix and explain it. With the more or less familiar mix of defensiveness and humility involved in editorial corrections the world over.

In grimmer news, an Iran court on Sunday reportedly found Reuters’ Tehran bureau chief guilty of “spreading lies” for a story on female martial arts students whose headline was later corrected, the Associated Press reported:

The state-owned news website quotes Ali Akbar Kasaeian, spokesman for the court panel, as saying Iranian national Parisa Hafezi was convicted of propaganda-related offenses for a February video that initially carried a headline saying the women were training as ninja “assassins.” …

The Reuters headline was corrected, but it led to the suspension of the Reuters bureau in Tehran in March. Most of the Reuters staff shifted to Dubai, but Hafezi was not allowed to leave Iran.