Fox News and Matt Drudge turn ‘pirate’ gag into international incident

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, September 20, 2012 15:44 EDT
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"Fox & Friends" attempts to turn a Twitter prank into an international incident. Photo: Screenshot via FoxNews.com.
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If you were watching Fox News or reading The Drudge Report on Thursday morning, you might mistakenly believe that President Barack Obama blew off the prime minister of Israel this week to chat up a colorfully costumed man who looks more like “Captain Morgan” than any government leader.

“TOO BUSY FOR ISRAEL,” a “Fox & Friends” kicker headline read in all-caps, stamped below a photo of Obama sitting next to man dressed like a pirate. “PRESIDENT FINDS TIME FOR PIRATE, LETTERMAN.” Hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy piled on, attributing the photo to “International Talk Like A Pirate Day,” an unofficial holiday marked every year on Sept. 19.

Co-host Gretchen Carlson added: “I’m going to have to see more on that story because it doesn’t totally seem to gel.” Still, the show went on, with the “Fox & Friends” production team repeatedly displaying the pirate photo and even cuing up pirate music. Doocy later said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “getting the Clint Eastwood treatment” from Obama, and showed a photo of the Israeli president cross-cut with an image of an empty chair.

Matt Drudge, the conservative media aggregator behind The Drudge Report, took the bait. “BUT NO TIME FOR NETANYAHU…” a headline on his popular conservative website declared, according to a record of the post captured by liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America.

It didn’t take long for savvy web users to point out that the pirate photo not is new. It turns out the image was taken as part of a Twitter joke for the White House Correspondents Association dinner, which typically features a night of political comedy and a satirical speech by the president. It has been available online since May 2009.

Reacting to the obvious blunder, a Twitter account for “Fox & Friends” corrected the repeat error. “The picture we aired this morning of the President & the pirate was from 2009,” they explained. Drudge, however, did not offer a correction.

This video is from “Fox & Friends,” broadcast Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, as snipped by Talking Points Memo.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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