Fake News From Fake Sources


When the history of the 2008 presidential election is written, Martin Eisenstadt just might make it as a footnote.

But two weeks after Election Day, the tale of this fraudulent Republican gunslinger is the perfect capper to an often ridiculous political season.

Last week, Eisenstadt—a blogger who described himself as an adviser to Sen. John McCain’s campaign and a "senior fellow" at "The Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy"—claimed to be the source of a post-election smear aimed at Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin. You know, the one about Palin not realizing that Africa was a continent, first reported by Fox News’ Carl Cameron.

The New York Times then reported that "Martin Eisenstadt" is actually the invention of two filmmakers who conceived the character as the basis for a TV pilot—but not before the pranksters had punk’d a number of major news outlets with other claims during the past year, including MSNBC, whose David Shuster reported Eisenstadt’s Palin claim before backing off moments later. (The pranksters admitted to TV Newser that they were not Cameron’s source on the Africa story.)

The satire should’ve been obvious to anyone who had visited the Eisenstadt blog or watched the faux documentary clips, including a fake Iraqi TV interview in which "Eisenstadt" proposes building a casino in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

Watch the clip below:

And the multi-part documentary profile of Eisenstadt, The Last Republican, which he slams as a BBC hatchet job, is just plain hilarious.

But the hoax fell into that sweet spot where plausibility meets parody. What’s more outrageous: Gov. Palin’s purported geographical cluelessness or claiming to be the story’s anonymous source? And though he never made it on TV, as far as we know, Eisenstadt might’ve passed easily as a member of the ballooning punditry that made cable-news panels look like The Last Supper.

We can’t help but be reminded of Karen Ryan, the PR contractor whose video news releases promoting Bush administration policies too often passed as straight news. But when it’s hard to tell the parody from the real thing, something’s not right.