The Onion sparks investigation at Capitol after satirical tweets about gunfire

By Kase Wickman
Thursday, September 29, 2011 12:36 EDT
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A series of tweets from parody news site The Onion has sparked an investigation at the U.S. Capitol, according to the Washington Post.

The Onion sent out a series of tweets riffing on the idea that a bipartisan group of Congress members had taken a group of schoolchildren hostage during a tour of the building, a theme also published in a satirical article on the site Thursday morning.

“BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building,” the first tweet read, sent shortly after 11:00 a.m. ET.

“BREAKING: Capitol building being evacuated. 12 children held hostage by group of armed congressmen. #CongressHostage,” read the next, shortly after.

Following tweets joked about Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) buying firearms and ammo, as well as Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) shooting at police helicopters.

The Capitol Police, however, were less than amused at the humor website’s experiment.

“It has come to our attention that recent twitter feeds are reporting false information concerning current conditions at the U.S. Capitol,” Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said in an e-mail statement to The Washington Post. “Conditions at the U.S. Capitol are currently normal. There is no credibility to these stories or the twitter feeds. The U.S. Capitol Police are currently investigating the reporting.”

Wednesday night, a 26-year-old man was arrested after an FBI investigation revealed that he was plotting an attack on the Pentagon and Capitol via drone aircraft.

Several Twitter users wondered whether the site had been hacked, but the updates continued on Facebook and Twitter after the investigation was already announced, and a fake video of the “hostage children” taken with a cell phone was posted to The Onion’s site.

“BREAKING: Congress demanding $12 trillion ransom or “all the kids die” #CongressHostage,” read the most recent tweet from The Onion before publication, at approximately 12:30 p.m. ET.

The Onion had not responded to a request for comment at publication time.

Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman is a reporter for Raw Story. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and grew up in Eugene, OR. Her work has been featured in The Boston Globe, Village Voice Media, The Christian Science Monitor, The Houston Chronicle and on NPR, among others. She lives in New York City and tweets from @kasewickman.
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