January 16, 2019

This morning, the “Fake News Washington Post” took on a new meaning. And it didn’t come from the president of the United States.

The real newspaper reported that activists were handing out copies of a fraudulent version of the newspaper — filled with anti-Donald Trump stories — at several locations around D.C. on Wednesday morning. The printed papers even bore The Post’s masthead and font type.

The stories, one of which falsely claimed that Trump had resigned the presidency on a napkin after “massive women-led protests,” also appeared on an imposter website, which looks very similar to The Post’s. The real newspaper’s public relations department tweeted that it was looking into the fake edition.

A quick search on Whois.com did not immediately reveal who owns the fraudulent Washington Post website, although the real Post reported that liberal activist group Code Pink might have had something to do with it. The group told Washingtonian that they didn’t create the spoof, but it was helping hand them out.

Twitter users also speculated that the elaborate hoax was organized by liberal group MoveOn, but the organization denied in a statement that they had any involvement.

Today’s fake copies of The Post — which bore the modified tagline “Democracy Awakens in Action” — aren’t the first time that someone has spoofed a major U.S. newspaper in print.

In 2008, liberal activists handed out imposter versions of The New York Times that bore the false headline “Iraq War Ends.” The pranksters distributed thousands of copies of the newspaper at several locations around New York City, including Grand Central Terminal and Union Square.

And, just like the fake Washington Post copies, the imposter newspaper posted stories on a fraudulent website — and bore datelines from the future envisioning a liberal utopia.

The Associated Press reported at the time that the papers were also passed out in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington. It also reported that a group of political pranksters called the Yes Men were behind the operation’s software and internet support.

In a full-circle moment, the Yes Men posted about the fraudulent Washington Post copies on its website this morning, claiming that the stunt was executed by authors Onnesha Roychoudhuri and L.A. Kauffman, who is also reportedly an activist for the Yes Men.

“The story this paper tells is more reasonable than our current reality,” Roychoudhuri told the group.

In a post on her Facebook page, Roychoudhuri linked to both The Post’s story about the prank and another URL for the fraudulent newspaper website. She said that creating the fake newspaper “has been a wild journey, and I’m glad the good news is finally hitting the streets.” Kauffman also took credit for the stunt on Twitter.


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Daniel Funke is a staff writer covering online misinformation for PolitiFact. He previously reported for Poynter as a fact-checking reporter and a Google News Lab…
Daniel Funke

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