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Iran's news agency portrays satirical Onion story as its own

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Sat September 29, 2012
Iran's Fars News Agency posted a story based on The Onion, unaware it is a satirical fake news website.
Iran's Fars News Agency posted a story based on The Onion, unaware it is a satirical fake news website.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency falls for an Onion story
  • Fars even steals the story, portraying it as its own
  • Satirical paper jokes that poll finds rural white Americans prefer Ahmadinejad
  • Once Fars discovered the farce, it removed the story from its English-language website

(CNN) -- Add Iran's news agency to the long list of those hoodwinked by the satire of The Onion.

Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency published a story Friday claiming that a Gallup poll found that rural white Americans prefer Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over President Barack Obama.

Such a poll would indeed be big news in Iran (and the United States) -- if it were true.

But the source was The Onion, the publication that presents the outlandish as real news.

Its serious tone fools many who are new to the lampoons. Onion yarns have tricked news outlets in the U.S. and overseas.

Ahmadinejad: I'm quite popular

What sets Fars apart from others, however, is that the agency published the Onion story as if it were its own.

Fars News Agency used the story verbatim, giving the same headline: "Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad To Obama"

Fars also took all the credit at the get-go:

"TEHRAN (FNA) -- According to the results of a Gallup poll released Monday, the overwhelming majority of rural white Americans said they would rather vote for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than US President Barack Obama."

(The Onion story used a Charleston, West Virginia, dateline.)

The article went on to quote a West Virginia resident as saying he would rather grab a ballgame or a drink with the Iranian leader than with Obama.

The phony resident then lauded Ahmadinejad: "He takes national defense seriously, and he'd never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does."

If that weren't enough, Fars continued, "According to the same Gallup poll, 60 percent of rural whites said they at least respected that Ahmadinejad doesn't try to hide the fact that he's Muslim."

A Fars news editor said Friday that the outlet took the item off its English-language website once editors realized that The Onion wasn't a legitimate news organization.

Without breaking from its farce, Onion Editor Will Tracy wrote in an e-mail that Fars is a subsidiary and has been "our Middle Eastern bureau since the mid 1980s, when the Onion's publisher, T. Herman Zweibel, founded Fars with the government approval of the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

"The Onion freely shares content with Fars and commends the journalists at Iran's Finest News Source on their superb reportage," Tracy wrote in his statement.

There's no word on whether either president is laughing.

CNN's Tricia Escobedo and Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report.

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