Iran's semi-official Fars news agency today said sorry for mistakenly misleading readers by running a fake "The Onion" news story, but the apology paled in comparison with its elaborate accompanying defense.
Fars on Friday ran a September 24 item from the The Onion citing totally bogus survey figures indicating more US voters would choose Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over US President Barak Obama. The international press was quick to jump on the slip-up, which proved quite embarrassing for an agency believed close to the Iranian government's powerful Revolutionary Guards.
Editors formally apologized for the mistake in a statement today, but the agency's English-language editor-in-chief (curiously unnamed), qualified the brief confession by saying, "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."
Besides, this is "not the first time a news outlet has been duped by The Onion," apologists added, noting that The New York Times accidentally treated an Onion item as "legitimate" in an April report on the teen magazine Tiger Beat. (True story.)
"Unfortunately (or humorously depending on one's perspective), in the [article's accompanying image] collection [The New York Times] also included a parody cover created by The Onion, which featured President Obama," said Fars, indicating they fully understand the humor at play. Haha! Other people did it too! It's so funny! Dying of laughter.
But seriously, lest readers lose faith in Fars' reporting credentials -- further endangered by pretty much plagiarizing The Onion report, never mind falling for it -- editors went on to detail a bizarre list of other journalistic misdemeanors.
Readers soon found themselves well beyond Onion territory and deep in a detailed account of a BBC Weatherman giving the finger on-air by accident two years ago -- presumably an effort by Fars to tap into anti-British sentiment in Iran.
Whatever the case, the thoroughly-reported 900-word apology may have the unintended effect of leaving readers wondering where exactly such high-minded scrutiny was a few days ago.