Palin Africa/Continent Statements Prove to be a Hoax
It was among the juicier post-election recriminations: Fox News Channel quoted an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.
Who would say such a thing? On Monday the answer popped up on a blog and popped out of the mouth of David Shuster, an MSNBC anchor. “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks,” Mr. Shuster said.
Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.
And the claim of credit for the Africa anecdote is just the latest ruse by Eisenstadt, who turns out to be a very elaborate hoax that has been going on for months.
One of the problems with the 24-hour news cycle is that there is a lot of pressure to just get new stories out there, which makes it easier to get stories run on less than credible evidence. In theory, the “new media” of the blogosphere is supposed to be a check on this, right? But bloggers have the same kinds of pressure to keep adding new content in order to keep visits and hits up. The result is frequently that some stories get pounced on right away. This is especially the case because a lot of times this type of story fits conveniently in with a bloggers’ bias. (Indeed, I have been guilty of this myself.)
A little skepticism is always in order.
UPDATE (James Joyner): An AP story on this matter says, “The hoax was limited to the identity of the source in the story about Palin — not the Fox News story itself. While Palin has denied that she mistook Africa for a country, the veracity of that report was not put in question by the revelation that Eisenstadt is a phony.”
If the hoax is merely Eisenstadt having claimed to the Carl Cameron’s source — when in fact the source was an actual “McCain campaign insider” — the story is still alive. If, contrariwise, Eisenstadt was the source of the story itself, then it’s dead.