Twentieth Century Fox apologizes for 'inappropriate' 'fake news' campaign for 'A Cure for Wellness'

"The digital campaign was inappropriate on every level," the studio said.

ByABC News
February 17, 2017, 12:28 PM

— -- Twentieth Century Fox apologized Thursday for using several fake news sites and made-up stories to promote its new movie, "A Cure for Wellness." The controversial promotional campaign was criticized on social media.

The studio said in a statement to ABC News, "In raising awareness for our films, we do our best to push the boundaries of traditional marketing in order to creatively express our message to consumers. In this case, we got it wrong."

It continued, "The digital campaign was inappropriate on every level, especially given the trust we work to build every day with our consumers. We have reviewed our internal approval process and made appropriate changes to ensure that every part of a campaign is elevated to and vetted by management in order to avoid this type of mistake in the future. We sincerely apologize."

The promoters of the film created websites with names like NY Morning Post, Salt Lake City Guardian, Houston Leader, Sacramento Dispatch and the Indianapolis Gazette, and they posted realistic-looking news stories about completely fictional events. One story featured President Trump holding a purported secret meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while another said Trump was going to ban vaccinations.

The stories asked readers to post any complaints about the apparent news by using hashtags like #ACureForWellness. That had consumers posting the "A Cure for Wellness" taglines, apparently without knowing the stories they were commenting on were fake and that their posts were just a promotion for a film.

When legitimate news organizations exposed the campaign, Fox and Regency were slammed by critics on social media for disseminating fake news at a time when the news media is in conflict with the president over his labeling the reporting of prominent news organizations as untrustworthy.

"A Cure for Wellness" is out in theaters this weekend.