Photo: Flickr Dan Taylor
In a rare and bizarre apology, Fars, Iran’s state news agency, has conceded that it mistakenly published a fake opinion poll made up by the Onion, a satirical US website, but added everyone gets caught out, including Test Match Special.Fars earnestly reported that a Gallup survey had found white rural Americans would rather vote for Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than President Barack Obama, failing to realise the story was a spoof produced The Onion – the US equivalent of Britain’s Private Eye.
After being ridiculed on the internet, the news agency – best known for publishing the anti-Israeli diatribes of senior Iranian officials – took down the story and yesterday issued a correction.
But the 900-word amending statement, written in English, was almost as strange as the original article.
After apologising to the “dear viewers”, Fars reminded its audience that all media outlets – including Test Match Special – “have had many goofs”.
As evidence, it cited the infamous 1991 Test match between England and the West Indies, where commentators Brian Johnston and Jonathan Agnew collapsed into fits of paralysing giggles.
The on-air meltdown, prompted by Mr Agnew’s remark that Ian Botham “didn’t quite get his leg over” after brushing the stumps with his thigh, is considered one of the most famous in British broadcasting history and forced motorists to pull on to the hard shoulder to wipe away tears.
Referencing a short article from the Daily Telegraph, Fars also mentioned an obscene gesture made on air by a weather presenter and two instances of the BBC’s Nicky Campbell accidentally replacing the word “hunt” with a rhyming swear word.
The unnamed editor-in-chief of Fars’s English service was quoted as saying that his agency “makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of its reports, however very occasionally mistakes do happen”.
But he went on to venture: “Although it does not justify our mistake, we do believe that if a free opinion poll is conducted in the US, a majority of Americans would prefer anyone outside the US political system to President Barack Obama and American statesmen”.
The satirical Onion article, which Fars plagiarised in its entirety, described how 77 per cent of white rural voters would rather go to a baseball game or drink a beer with the Mr Ahmadinejad than spend time with the American president, despite the Iranian leader’s habit of denying the Holocaust and describing the US as “the Great Satan”.
It also quoted a made-up resident of the conservative state of West Virginia, who said he preferred Mr Ahmadinejad because “he takes national defence seriously, and he’d never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does”.
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