Stories on Ivanka Trump wanting to mace dad and porn airing on CNN show how easily fake news spreads.

Stories on Ivanka Trump Wanting to Mace Dad and Porn Airing on CNN Show How Easily Fake News Becomes…

Stories on Ivanka Trump Wanting to Mace Dad and Porn Airing on CNN Show How Easily Fake News Becomes…

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The Slatest
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Nov. 25 2016 7:04 PM

Stories on Ivanka Trump Wanting to Mace Dad and Porn Airing on CNN Show How Easily Fake News Spreads

Donald Trump visits his Scottish golf course Turnberry with Ivanka Trump on July 30, 2015 in Ayr, Scotland.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Two stories that seemed destined for virality spread like wildfire over the Thanksgiving holiday. The problem? They just weren’t true. At a time when the issue of “fake news” has taken center stage, the two stories demonstrate how even those outlets that pat themselves on the back for being the serious voices in an Internet filled with fakes and anonymous sources can still fall prey to fake news in the desperate search for clicks.

First up, Ivanka Trump. On Thanksgiving morning, journalist Hugo Rifkind, and shortly thereafter journalist Sarah Kendzior, tweeted out a screengrab of what they said was the response to the now-infamous quote of Donald Trump saying he would date his daughter if she wasn’t, you know, his daughter. "If he wasn't my father, I would spray him with Mace,” Ivanka Trump reportedly said.


The quote spread quickly and was picked up by numerous outlets, including the Hill and the New York Daily News, among others. The problem? It wasn’t true. Debunking website Snopes reported a day later that it's true the quote had been published in the Chicago Tribune in August 2006. But it had first been published on 17 March 2006 in Louisiana’s Shreveport Times, where it was attributed to comedian Conan O’Brien. Although there is no video evidence of the joke, “it’s clear that the ‘mace’ quote did not originate with Ivanka Trump.”

Next up, porn on CNN. On Friday, reports began to emerge that CNN accidentally broadcast 30 minutes of hardcore pornography on Boston cable news operator RCN. And it happened when Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown was supposed to be airing. The jokes obviously just wrote themselves. But what was the source for this info? A single Twitter user who posted multiple images apparently showing photos of the porn that was allegedly broadcast. “I can't wait until [RCN] wakes up [tomorrow and] realizes that hardcore porn was broadcast on [CNN] instead of [Parts Unknown] tonight,” user @Solikearose allegedly wrote.

BuzzFeed spoke to the Twitter user in question who swears it was true. “I initially posted because I wanted to see if anyone else in Boston had been affected,” the Twitter user, who asked only to be identified as Rose, said. “I think it was a broadcasting error that affected only my house.” Both CNN and RCN denied the reports but not before several outlets ran with the story, including the likes of Variety, the New York Post, and Esquire, some saying that as many as 300,000 households could have been affected.

The Verge explains the big picture:

Even if porn was aired on CNN, it’s clear that a lot of publications ran with a story based on tweets from one person before verifying the facts. Many of the headlines already implicate CNN, claiming the channel aired 30 minutes of porn without giving any context.
The stakes might not seem very high in this case, but fake news seems to have played a major role during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mistakes like this won’t be very funny when they cost us more than a laugh.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.