Did the Onion Go Too Far? Capitol Evacuation Story Prompts Police Response

Sep 29, 2011 11:34am

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ABC News’ Sunlen Miller, Lauren Effron and Andrew Springer report:

The satirical newspaper The Onion may have gone a little too far with their “reporting” this morning, causing the Capitol Hill police to get involved.

The first tweet, with a hashtag of #CongressHostage, sent out at 10:33 a.m. said, “BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building.”

That was followed by a second, more disturbing tweet at 10:44 a.m.: “BREAKING: Capitol building being evacuated. 12 children held hostage by group of armed congressmen. #CongressHostage”

It wasn’t a case of hacking. It was done on purpose.

“It’s just the Onion’s usual satire, you’ll see it unfold,” said Anne Finn, a spokeswoman for The Onion, who also apologized for any confusion.

The magazine also posted a story on its website, explaining in greater detail that during the fake “hostage situation,” House Speaker John Boehner told FBI negotiators that Congress needed $12 trillion.

“House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who has emerged as spokesman for the bipartisan group, informed FBI negotiators that the legislative body’s demands would be issued within the next hour, and that if any attempt is made to stage a rescue ‘all the kids will die,’” the satirical story said.

Given the sensitivity around the safety of the U.S. Capitol, the reports prompted the Capitol Hill police to issue a statement underlining that there is no credibility to the reports.

“It has come to our attention that recent twitter feeds are reporting false information concerning current conditions at the U.S. Capitol,” Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman said in a statement, “Conditions at the U.S. Capitol are currently normal. There is no credibility to these stories or the twitter feeds. The U.S. Capitol Police are currently investigating the reporting.”

The online version of The Onion’s report also included a rather shocking  Photoshopped photo of Boehner holding a semiautomatic pistol to the head of a school girl outside the Capitol steps.  Another unidentified man in a suit wears a ski mask and holds a rifle.

Though the ”The Onion” is known to often write provocative stories, some readers wondered if the paper took its satire too far this time.

One Twitter user, @bccohan, tweeted: “Again @TheOnion not cool and this image is really really awful. It isn’t funny. Period.”

“I jumped a shark to get to the Onion articles, and I find this tasteless, sick, unfunny article? I hope the hack that wrote this tasteless crap is fired!,” another follower, Jeremy Martin, wrote on The Onion’s Facebook page.

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