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A study that claimed Fox News viewers were significantly less intelligent than average Americans is a hoax, Michael Giltz writes. The "study" was ordered up by a group of conservatives who hope to move the Republican party in a more moderate direction, lead hoaxer "P. Nichols" told Giltz.

Making people embarrassed to say they watched FOX News (or better yet not watch FOX News at all) might help that goal. So the 5000 people who took part in the study were chosen by Nichols and non-scientists, essentially selected to guarantee the results they were looking for.


News of the study was distributed by the press-release-distribution service PRWeb and was picked up by grateful Fox-skeptic communities like Daily Kos and Current.

PRWeb insisted Nichols rewrite the release four times, he told Giltz.

They sent the first draft back "and said it read like b.s.," claimed Nichols, who said they didn't use that word. PRWeb asked for more details about the study and more specifics until five drafts later they were finally satisfied that it met some minimal standards, he said.

"Facts are obsolete," Nichols told Giltz, while explaining the study, which he also characterized as "social commentary."

A Daily Kos group called Media Watch picked up that torch, writing a second post on the fake study that dings Yahoo for being "fooled by this phony press release." It continued:

but the bigger fools are those who watch and believe the certifiable nonsense that is broadcast every day on Fox News.

Earlier this year, an actual study by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind asked the audiences of various media organizations a battery of questions about current events, and Fox News viewers finished last -- "worse than if they had reported watching no media at all," the researchers wrote. Fox responded by suggesting Fairleigh Dickinson "invest in improving its weak academic program instead of spending money on frivolous polling – their student body does not deserve to be so ill-informed.”

Related: Fake press release exposes real problems in online news distribution | Survey: NPR’s listeners best-informed, Fox viewers worst-informed