AP falls for Internet hoax, reports GE would “repay” tax refund

posted at 1:30 pm on April 13, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

How many of you received the official-looking e-mail, supposedly from General Electric, that claimed remorse for its big $3.2 billion tax refund and pledged to donate it to the US Treasury?  I did, which I thought was a little odd, since the notion that GE got the refund in the first place came from bad reporting at the New York Times rather than reality.  Curious, I clicked on the link in the press release and discovered that the website was non-functional.  I then promptly forgot about it, at least until the AP reported it as fact:

I screen-capped it so we have the record when the AP sends it down the memory hole — which they will do shortly after Business Insider blew the whistle on this:

The AP just fell for a hoax press release, which claimed that GE would repay the government the $3.8 billion tax loss carryforward it received. The hoax was designed to correspond with last month’s controversy originated by the New York Times about how GE, despite its huge profits, was paying no taxes.

The fake press release titled GE Responds to Public Outcry – Will Donate Entire $3.2 Billion Tax Refund to Help Offset Cuts and Save American Jobs was posted at a site called http://www.genewscenters.com/.

It’s a pretty sophisticated fake, since genewscenters.com is just one letter off from genewscenter.com, where GE actually hosts its news.

It wasn’t sophisticated enough to keep the site running properly, so I’m still less than impressed.  The AP did acknowledge a little while later that they’d been snookered, but the explanation is, well, lacking:

The fake release, which was emailed to the AP, included a GE logo and a link to a website designed to look like GE’s website. The AP published a 90-word story based on the release. Thirty-five minutes later, AP withdrew the story and advised its customers that the story was a hoax.

So the reporter and his/her editor basically repackaged a supposed press release with no real effort to check its veracity.  Remember that the $3.2 billion refund itself was fictional, and even apart from that, a multibillion-dollar donation to the Treasury would at least be unusual.  How many times have publicly-held corporations deliberately overpaid taxes by billions of dollars?  Wouldn’t that be a claim that requires a little more strenuous fact-checking, maybe by picking up a phone and calling someone at GE to verify?

By the way, the AP story was still live on Yahoo’s newswire feed as of 13:20, with no note of correction.


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Ubervetters, the AP. Shea.

ace tomato on April 13, 2011 at 1:31 PM

They couldn’t even click on the link before publishing?

Rocks on April 13, 2011 at 1:32 PM

AP is still falling for that “Hope and Change” hoax, too.

albill on April 13, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Fake but accurate.

Colbyjack on April 13, 2011 at 1:32 PM

All fact-checkers still assigned to Palin case.

MassVictim on April 13, 2011 at 1:34 PM

So the reporter and his/her editor basically repackaged a supposed press release with no real effort to check its veracity.

Hey, at least they are not, you know…bloggers!

sharrukin on April 13, 2011 at 1:34 PM

Too bad we cannot post images here in the thread. Yahoo had a headline yesterday that read, “Spending cuts not expected to dent $1.5B deficit.”

I do not think there would be a tea party if that was our deficit.

WashJeff on April 13, 2011 at 1:35 PM

Sarah Palin must have had something to do with this.

kringeesmom on April 13, 2011 at 1:35 PM

The Ass ociated Press

They’re delirious from what they dwell in. They consume the One’s caca. Suffocate from it, fools.

Schadenfreude on April 13, 2011 at 1:36 PM

Hard to wave pom-poms for PBHO and factcheck simultaneously.

Bishop on April 13, 2011 at 1:36 PM

The fact checkers too busy trying to find Obama’s birth certificate along with Trump. Right!

hip shot on April 13, 2011 at 1:39 PM

AP falls for hoax

Or as the AP calls it, “Journalism”.

The Mega Independent on April 13, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Heck, I do a better job fact checking when I retweet something.

mizflame98 on April 13, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Remember when reporters would pick up the telephone and call a company’s pr person for confirmation. Good times, good times.

rbj on April 13, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Further proof that the MSM knuckleheads don’t feel the need to understand the subjects they report as long as it fulfills their wishful thinking.

If GE did this, they would have a $3.2 Billion shareholder lawsuit on their desks tomorrow morning. The AP should look up the word “fiduciary” and get back to us.

RadClown on April 13, 2011 at 1:44 PM

1:45- story is still at the link- unbelievable!!!!

marks on April 13, 2011 at 1:45 PM

AP falls for Internet hoax, reports GE would “repay” tax refund

Leave Allahpundit alone. It’s a beta mistake, OK?

Bruno Strozek on April 13, 2011 at 1:46 PM

AP substantiates Internet GE tax hoax.

Mission Accomplished

Once the AP message is read, MSM true believers tolerate GE disinformation as truth: virtual reality.

Those who know better aren’t GE fans and do not lend AP credibility anyway.

maverick muse on April 13, 2011 at 1:49 PM

It was from AP that I got the first listing of “the spending cuts that weren’t” after last week’s Boehner-Reid fiasco. If AP isn’t fact-checking, maybe that list was wrong, too. Maybe Boehner & Reid DID cut spending. Woohoo!

ss396 on April 13, 2011 at 1:50 PM

When you’re shilling for Obama, who has time to do any real investigation, fact finding, or reporting of truth???

capejasmine on April 13, 2011 at 1:53 PM

maverick muse on April 13, 2011 at 1:49 PM

Exactly. They have one job, and one job only. To see that Obama is re-elected. Everything that comes from them is up for scrutiny and suspicion.

capejasmine on April 13, 2011 at 1:54 PM

But AP’s analysis of the budget deal is 100% accurate!

Missy on April 13, 2011 at 1:54 PM

layers and layers of factchecking. and more layers! and more! and the best and brightest researching! and more layers of fact checking!

xxairkissesxx

layers and layers of fact checking!

Branch Rickey on April 13, 2011 at 1:56 PM

ss396 on April 13, 2011 at 1:50 PM

Missy on April 13, 2011 at 1:54 PM

If AP was the only one reporting on it you might have a point.
They aren’t so you don’t.

Your grasping at straws.

sharrukin on April 13, 2011 at 1:59 PM

Must be some of that ‘multiple layers of fact checking’ that the MSM is so proud of.

GarandFan on April 13, 2011 at 2:00 PM

Here’s another one from my Yahoo news feed:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110413/ap_en_mu/us_tenor_delivers_baby

Correction: Tenor Delivers Baby story
ShareretweetEmailPrint– 17 mins ago
NEW YORK – In an April 9 story about tenor Juan Diego Florez helping deliver his baby minutes before singing in the Metropolitan Opera production of “Le Comte Ory,” The Associated Press erroneously reported that the soprano starring in the broadcast was Renee Fleming. The singer was Diana Damrau. Fleming was the host.

rbj on April 13, 2011 at 2:00 PM

All fact-checkers still assigned to Palin case.

MassVictim on April 13, 2011 at 1:34 PM

Somebody has to do it.

mankai on April 13, 2011 at 2:01 PM

From http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=13365247

“The AP did not follow its own standards in this case for verifying the authenticity of a news release,” said AP Business Editor Hal Ritter.

Thy’re being too hard on themselves- they certainly DID follow their own standards- that’s the problem.

marks on April 13, 2011 at 2:02 PM

Yes, but thank gawd the AP placed 11 dedicated reporters to fact check Sarah Palin’s book “Going Rogue.”

Priorities!

locomotivebreath1901 on April 13, 2011 at 2:04 PM

If AP was the only one reporting on it you might have a point.
They aren’t so you don’t.

Your grasping at straws.

sharrukin on April 13, 2011 at 1:59 PM

I was to understand AP was a news organization that buys stories from writers & sends them to subscribers.

Badger40 on April 13, 2011 at 2:06 PM

I’m sure that this myth will never die.
You know Liberals will be crowing about how great GE is for doing this for years to come, nevermind it’s a lie.

Badger40 on April 13, 2011 at 2:07 PM

Heard about it on Varney and company, Fox Business News this morning.

hotdax on April 13, 2011 at 2:09 PM

But AP’s analysis of the budget deal is 100% accurate!

Missy on April 13, 2011 at 1:54 PM

Their analysis was probably provided by a cadre of non-partisan experts from the Center For American Progress.

Remember – much of the media is essentially lazy, that being a standard liberal trait. That’s because they think effort has no bearing on outcomes. The poor can’t help but be poor, blacks can’t help but live in high-crime areas, students can’t help their test scores.

So why would reporters fact check? They get paid even if they don’t, and they’ve no prospect for advancing beyond their current position. And many newsroom employees are unionized, meaning you can’t fire them for basically plagiarizing from a press release.

hawksruleva on April 13, 2011 at 2:12 PM

Badger40 on April 13, 2011 at 2:06 PM

The GOP is getting a lot of heat for this and it is being reported all over the place.

Don’t you think that someone would have sent an e-mail to at least one those hundreds of conservatives bloggers telling them its a false story?

sharrukin on April 13, 2011 at 2:15 PM

I don’t think they fell for it. They put it out there for thousands of newspapers and their online sites and take it off later. Meanwhile, millions read it and never find out it was a hoax. Mission accomplished. People think GE is great.
Gotta go and buy some Phillips or Sylvania lightbulbs.

lonestar1 on April 13, 2011 at 2:15 PM

I have no idea. I’m sure it’s quite possible & probably was done on purpose to draw some negative attention to the GOP.
But what’s new there.
I work very hard to teach my students what credible sources & information looks like.
And it’s like beating my head against a brick wall.
People who are ignorant on a topic or perhaps just lazy, think that bcs they read it somewhere in an article or heard it on TV that it’s probably true.
I just really don’t believe much of anything anymore.

Badger40 on April 13, 2011 at 2:19 PM

1:45- story is still at the link- unbelievable!!!!
marks on April 13, 2011 at 1:45 PM

Most likely they’ve already removed it. Changes on the scale of something like this probably take some time to propagate to every service that uses their feeds.

spinach.chin on April 13, 2011 at 2:22 PM

You got it wrong, Ed.

The AP is so incompetent that they printed their April 1 headline on April 13…

BVM on April 13, 2011 at 2:28 PM

Did GE pay taxes?

Was that a hoax?

I was out of town… I only caught a few headlines for a couple of weeks.

The first mistaken headline while I was out was that Prosser didn’t really lose in Wisconsin…

People who don’t pay attention to news regularly really have no idea what is going on. No wonder they vote Democrat.

petunia on April 13, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Wow. This is also up there with if we like our health coverage we get to keep it…wait…what?

SPGuy on April 13, 2011 at 2:32 PM

But AP’s analysis of the budget deal is 100% accurate!

Missy on April 13, 2011 at 1:54 PM

You sure about that?

tinkerthinker on April 13, 2011 at 2:39 PM

Obviously, Bush’s fault. He’s getting a bit bored hanging out, so, practical jokes are a good time killer

William Teach on April 13, 2011 at 2:41 PM

You sure about that?

tinkerthinker on April 13, 2011 at 2:39 PM

No, not at all – I should have included a sarc tag…

I still can’t believe everyone here went ape over it w/o the slightest bit of skepticism.

Missy on April 13, 2011 at 2:58 PM

They refused to vet the story because it didn’t have the name “Palin” in it.

ExpressoBold on April 13, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Pwned!

Ward Cleaver on April 13, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Anyone else wondering if this was a stock sell/buy scam? Is the SEC looking into this or are the computers still on the porno channels?

slickwillie2001 on April 13, 2011 at 3:34 PM

Ed, you should know better than to click on a link in a suspicious e-mail! Do you want to infect Hot Air?!?

KS Rex on April 13, 2011 at 5:22 PM

Note to the Associated Press:

Just because you wish it to be true…..it doesn’t make it so.

Now that we’ve learned a little lesson, we might want to re-visit:

Global warming
Obamacare
Wind Power
Domestic Oil Production
ACORN
The New Black Panthers Case
etc.
etc.
etc.

Tim_CA on April 13, 2011 at 5:39 PM

the captured GI joe in iraq story was the best. That real american hero will be missed. I don’t care if he was made of plastic!

clement on April 13, 2011 at 5:44 PM

It’s still up a yahoo at 5:47 pm pacific time.

xplodeit on April 13, 2011 at 8:48 PM

Dang Ed, you should have had Allah do this piece. Then the headline could have been, “AP Falls for Story, Sort Of, Then AP Falls For Story, For Real.”

Then we all would have been as confused as the Associated Press.

hawkdriver on April 13, 2011 at 9:16 PM

Link still works as I post…

clancy_wiggum on April 14, 2011 at 4:46 AM

The article is still there. Go figure!

Paul_in_NJ on April 14, 2011 at 1:38 PM