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Hacks hoodwinked by hoax Baltimore mayor's website

When The Wire and Midsomer Murders collide

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A fake website linking cult US television show The Wire to not-so-cult Blighty TV drama Midsomer Murders has hoodwinked several newspapers into reporting what they believed were the reactionary views of Baltimore mayor Sheila Dixon.

The Guardian and Independent were both caught out by the hoax planted by political blogger and sometime Labour Party fancier Alex Hilton AKA Recess Monkey.

It would appear that RM has been on his ollibobs in Maryland, Baltimore where he spent some time and effort pulling together a somewhat convincing spoof website that apes Mayor Dixon’s online home.

And quite a few newspapers, including local rag The Baltimore Sun, swallowed the story without first checking their facts.

The Guardian breathlessly reported today that Mayor Dixon had “spoken out” against futile comments made by shadow home sectary Chris Grayling, who compared what the Tories describe as “Broken Britain” with Baltimore-set The Wire.

"To present a television show as the real Baltimore is to perpetuate a fiction that dishonours [clue one: UK English spelling] our city. It is as pointless as boasting that Baltimore has a per capita homicide rate a fraction of that in the popular UK television show Midsomer Murders," Dixon, with her cheeky smile and come-to-bed eyes, was quoted as saying.

Alas, none of it was true but merely a hoax dreamed up by RM.

If hacks at the Grauniad and elsewhere had checked their facts they might have noticed the site wasn’t actually real. The joker was also kind enough to sign his name at the bottom of the press release page, for anyone who might’ve cared to look.

“Copyright R Monkee Esq,” it helpfully reads.

The Guardian updated its story after eventually spotting the journalistic blunder.

“The following correction was due for publication in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Saturday 29 August 2009. The mayor of Baltimore did not make the statements attributed to her in the story below – we were caught out by a hoax,” reads a tail-between-its-legs statement on the G's website.

The paper also wrote a comment piece confessing to having been duped.

“It was quite an elaborate hoax including not only a spoof website, but also a fake Twitter account and a fake YouTube channel showing beyond any doubt the the [sic] picturesque market town of Midsomer is far deadlier than Baltimore,” spluttered the paper.

Aha, so that explains things, then. There was a Twitter account so it must've been true, right?

Er, nope. ®

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