WASHINGTON – A startling Internet video that shows someone spraying graffiti on President Bush's jet looked so authentic that the Air Force wasn't immediately certain whether the plane had been targeted.
It was all a hoax. No one actually sprayed the slogan "Still Free" on the cowling of Air Force One.
The pranksters responsible for the grainy, two-minute Web video — employed by a New York fashion company — revealed Friday how they pulled it off: a rented 747 in California painted to look almost exactly like Air Force One.
"I wanted to do something culturally significant, wanted to create a real pop-culture moment," said Marc Ecko of Marc Ecko Enterprises. "It's this completely irreverent, over-the-top thing that could really never happen: this five-dollar can of paint putting a pimple on this Goliath."
The video shows hooded graffiti artists climbing barbed-wire fences and sneaking past guards with dogs to approach the jumbo jet. They spray-paint a slogan associated with free expression.
After the video began circulating on the Web on Tuesday, the Air Force checked to see whether the plane had been vandalized.
"We're looking at it, too," said Lt. Col. Bruce Alexander, a spokesman for the Air Mobility Command's 89th Airlift Wing, which operates Air Force One. "It looks very real."
Alexander later confirmed that no such spray-painting had occurred.
Ecko acknowledged Friday that his company had rented a 747 cargo jet at San Bernardino's airport and covertly painted one side to look like Air Force One. Employees signed secrecy agreements and worked inside a giant hangar until the night the video was made. Ecko declined to say how much the stunt cost.
"It's not cheap," he said. "You have to be rich."