Heard on the Hill

Weekend of Hoaxes

This past weekend saw its share of hoaxes: a fake press release that resulted in a real story and a Nigerian email scam using a Congressman's name! It was classic Internet craziness starring some of our lovely Members of Congress. For starters, a press release was sent to the Madison, Wis., Capital Times claiming that House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) had joined a state Senator in urging the Smithsonian to purge its collection of images of the Madison protests. This was, in fact, not true and the figment of a freelancer's imagination. Mike Konopacki, an editorial cartoonist who freelanced for the very organization he duped, wrote the press release to make a point that was lost. For 40 minutes Saturday, the fake story was published on the Capital Times' website. To the news organization's credit, it published a correction and a story explaining the whole debacle. Meanwhile, California Rep. Mike Thompson's (D) name is being used in a money-making scheme that also stars a faux Ghanaian ambassador, the Vallejo Times-Herald reported. A Thompson email newsletter from two years ago is inexplicably attached to an email asking recipients to send the fake ambassador $55. Somehow, their money will turn into millions of dollars. Interestingly, the scam uses the name of a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Renee Sanders, as the faux Ghanaian ambassador. It's all very confusing.