Media and bloggers fall for clever hoaxer.

The McCain advisor who Fox News relied on for their claim that Sarah Palin thought that Africa was a country is, in fact, a serial hoaxer. Supposed McCain policy advisor “Martin Eisenstadt” is an invention of Eitan Gorlin. He cleverly mixes barely-plausible claims with true statements, so the media and bloggers (including yours truly) take the bait. He’s behind a few other rumors that came out during the election, all of which I’m pleased to say that I investigated and rejected as implausible at the time. Honestly, I can’t help but like the guy. I have to give credit to Sourcewatch—they’ve had him pegged the whole time.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

6 replies on “Media and bloggers fall for clever hoaxer.”

  1. Yes, this sort of confusing. The NY Times article appears to be saying that the only hoax perpetrated by “Eisenstadt” in this case is claiming credit for the Africa rumor, his claim then being reported by MSNBC. In other words, Eisenstadt was not Fox News’ source; he merely claimed credit for the rumor once Fox News made it public.

    Or am I missing something?

  2. Much as I dislike Palin, I had real doubts about the “Palin thinks Africa is a country” leak. There are in fact plenty of Americans clueless enough to think so: my brother had a first-grade teacher who said so in class and scolded a student who told her she was wrong, an incident that provoked a meeting between the principal and upset parents once the story got around. But it’s hard to believe that anyone in Palin’s position wouldn’t have a mental map of Africa as consisting of multiple countries, even if she couldn’t name many. The pastor of her own church came from Kenya; everyone knows Obama’s father was Kenyan. American evangelicals are generally aware of Darfur and Somalia. Etc. etc.

    My guess is that some McCain campaign staffer heard her bobble a question or expression confusion over some Africa-related issue, and overgeneralized.

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