Is a pig rescuing a goat news? It turns out in this case, it wasn’t even real.
A video of a pig heroically rescuing a goat from a pond was featured on several TV news programs including ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams and Today and Fox News’ Fox & Friends after going viral on YouTube. The only problem? The video was a fake, staged for the new Comedy Central show Nathan for You, which premieres Feb. 28.
The video has been viewed 7 million times since it was first posted on Sept. 19, but its creators tell the New York Times it was not their intention to pull off an elaborate hoax on news organizations. Though series star Nathan Fielder said he was contacted by programs for permission to re-air the video, none questioned its authenticity.
“We made a collective decision to not turn it into something else, because it wasn’t about pranking the news media,” Kent Alterman, Comedy Central’s president for content development and original programming told the Times. “It didn’t seem like anyone was being harmed in this case.” A Comedy Central spokesperson said the network had no further statement.
One anchor, Williams, introduced the video by saying there was no way to know if it was real. ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas questioned how the pig could free the goat, but her inquiry was laughed off by co-anchor Sam Champion.
Williams issued a correction on Tuesday’s Nightly News, but so far no other networks have followed suit. In his apology Williams dubbed the matter “pig-gate,” underscoring a perceived trivialness of an error on a story with little news value in the first place. But it does follow several recent, more high profile instances of TV networks reporting facts before checking them out.
In a more serious error, ABC News’ Brian Ross was widely criticized for reporting a possible connection between Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes and the Tea Party before verifying the link last summer (ABC News later apologized). Last month, many news organizations found themselves correcting previous reports after Deadspin exposed star Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend story to be a hoax.
You can watch Williams’ on-air correction below: