The Associated Press (AP) have retracted an interview with an online hoaxster who claimed to be a survivor of the San Bernardino mass shooting, after Breitbart Tech obtained an exclusive interview in which she admitted that her story was a fabrication intended to fool the mainstream media.
The troll fabricated a fake story about the massacre, claiming that she had exchanged words with one of the shooters. She convinced the AP that one of the shooters said he was murdering people “for necessary ethics” and that he wore a shirt emblazoned with the logo “GG.” This was an attempt to pin the shooting on GamerGate, the movement for higher standards and political independence in video game journalism that has been repeatedly scapegoated in the media.
There are few examples of trolls who have seen their hoaxes spread so far, so quickly. Because over 1,000 media outlets around the world are subscribed to the AP’s news service [full disclosure: Breitbart is among them], the correction also appeared in a number of other outlets that reprinted the AP story.
Among these were the New York Times, the Daily Mail, ABC News, and the San Diego Union Tribune. CNN was also hoaxed by the troll, who was invited on to Andersoon Cooper 360, where she was interviewed by Cooper himself. The International Business Times also quoted “Marie,” and later issued a correction.
Following her successful hoax, “Marie” revealed to Breitbart Tech that she had been pranking the media all along:
When the shooting occurred and made it’s way to the news, I tweeted saying how I was in hiding at the shooting and I had gotten a glimpse of what happened. Immediately a bunch of reporters kept following and dming [direct messaging] me asking me if I wanted to be interviewed. Then someone from CNN asked me to be on Anderson Cooper. I took that interview. Took a few hours but I finally got put on the air. I didn’t get to say anything I wanted but it was still pretty amazing how I somehow made my way on the broadcast.
Steve Buttry, Director of Student Media at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Journalism, scolded “Marie” for her prank in a blog post. “Exploiting a tragedy for fun and laughs is lower on the scale of humanity than whatever you think media do in seeking to interview witnesses to tragedies,” wrote Buttry.