It happens even to a powerful media-savvy organization.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee got punked.
Reporters covering the pro-Israel lobby’s Washington policy conference and many other news outlets received an e-mail early Monday morning listed as coming from AIPAC spokesman Josh Block. The surprising news in the emailed press release, with AIPAC’s authoritative letterhead on top of the page, was that the group was calling on Jerusalem to “immediately freeze new settlement projects” because of the latest dispute between the U.S. and Israel over the Netanyahu’s plans to build new, exclusively Jewish housing in predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem.
Some media outlets fell for the trick. The NPR broadcast a news item echoing the press release on one of its morning hourly newscasts only to retract the report a few minutes later. Many others bombarded Block with questions.
The spokesman made clear that the statement was fake and that no, AIPAC had not changed its policy on settlements.
It is still not clear who pulled off the hoax, although activists from anti-war Code Pink movement were seen distributing a print of the fake email outside the AIPAC conference.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
AIPAC Gets Punked