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Daniel Kurtzman

Onion Story on Capitol Hill Hostages Sparks Criticism

By September 29, 2011

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The Onion Congress Hostage Story The Onion has come under withering criticism for its reporting of a fake hostage situation perpetrated by members of Congress.

The popular satirical news publication sent out "breaking news" tweets and posted a satirical article about a shooting inside the Capitol and lawmakers taking children hostage. It was meant to satirize recent budget negotiations in Congress and the debt ceiling crisis, which many had likened to a hostage standoff.

Here are some of the tweets the Onion sent out as part of its "reporting":
Reports from those who know Congress say the legislative body had seemed desperate as of late #CongressHostage

Veteran hostage negotiator calls Rep. Boehner's demands "unrealistic" #CongressHostage

President Obama in bullet proof vest now on Capitol steps trying to talk congressmen down" #CongressHostage

Obama on bullhorn: "John, I know you can hear me in there. Please, you don't need to do this." #CongressHostage

4pm deadline is in 15 minutes. Congress still has not received its $12 trillion #CongressHostage
Roll Call reported that the tweets temporarily set off a brief panic on Capitol Hill, and the U.S. Capitol Police was reacted angrily to the Onion's parody.

Some compared the Onion's fake hostage reporting to Orson Welles's famous "War of the Worlds" radio drama, which caused panic among listeners who actually believed the Earth had come under attack by Martians.

But as one observer tweeted, "Not sure what's worse, people not knowing the Onion is fake, or that it seemed believable that Members of Congress would take kids hostage."

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October 1, 2011 at 9:05 pm
(1) Louigi says:

Pitiful that so many people (a) aren’t familiar with Onion’s satire, and (b) lack a sense of humor!

October 1, 2011 at 10:30 pm
(2) Chuck Makela says:

People who are unfamiliar with the Onion need to get a little more familiar. What I find rather scary is that the publication’s satire may not be all that far away from reality. Who knows what the GOP (Greedy Obstructionists Party) might try next. Perhaps Lady Gaga would be their next grasp at a straw. Wow, a floundering party starting to realize money can’t buy everything – especially the American people who the Republicans have been raping for decades. CCM

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