Published September 27, 2012
Memo to the media: Clearly mark political satire, especially if it makes Republicans look bad. Otherwise, you might fool a Nobel prize-winning New York Times columnist.
Columnist Paul Krugman and other commentators were apparently duped Wednesday after Politico ran a satire piece that included what -- if true -- would have been an inflammatory comment by Republican running mate Paul Ryan.
Politico took its inspiration from a quote, attributed to a GOP operative, that actually ran in The New York Times. The operative reportedly said that if Ryan ever runs for national office again, “he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him.”
The Politico piece then blended that into satire – fantasy for some – with reporter Roger Simon writing that Ryan had taken to calling his running mate “Stench.” In fact, Ryan was so embarrassed to be part of Mitt Romney’s “floundering” campaign, Simon wrote, that he was openly sneering at the man on top of his ticket.
“If Stench calls, take a message,” Ryan supposedly had been telling aides. “Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later,” Simon quoted Ryan as saying.
Krugman, a blogger for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and a host of other liberal pundits fell for Simon's satire -- apparently finding the quote too good to not be true.
“Can I say that even though I’m not exactly a fan of Mitt Romney’s, this is just bad behavior?” wrote Krugman on his Times blog “The Conscience of a Liberal.” “You’re supposed to wait until it’s actually over before you do this kind of thing.”
Liberal talk radio host Taylor Marsh was giddy.
“Ryan is trying to save himself so he can live to run another day,” she wrote on her website. “Roger Simon’s piece has spread like wildfire and is causing a gigantic ripple.”
Hours later, word got around that Simon had made it all up. Even the part about how Romney had taken to calling Ryan “Gilligan.” Some of the folks who got fooled groused about it being too subtle or not particularly funny.
"OK, the word is that this was really clumsy satire," Krugman wrote in a late entry to his blog.
Simon did include a note at the end of the column that explained his point -- even as he put himself in a league with some slightly better satirists:
[Author’s note: Jonathan Swift did not really want Irish people to sell their children for food in 1729; George Orwell did not really want the clocks to strike thirteen in 1984; Paul Ryan, I am sure, calls Mitt Romney something more dignified than “Stench” and Microsoft did not invent PowerPoint as a means to euthanize cattle. At least I am pretty sure Microsoft didn’t.]