According to CNN, the Iranian news agency Fars essentially plagiarized a story published in the West that suggested that rural, white Americans preferred Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over American President Barack Obama.Creative Commons (Daniella Zalcman)
The story, which Fars ran as if it were its own, quoted a Gallup poll to this effect. It even quoted a West Virginia resident as suggesting that he would rather have a beer or go to a ballgame with the America hating Muslim. The reasons for supporting the Iranian strongman ranged from his support for a strong national defense, a refusal to pander to gays, and the courage to admit that he is a Muslim - unlike Obama.
The problem arose when the source Fars plagiarized from was the Onion, a satirical website that regularly publishes fake news stories. The entire story about the Gallup Poll showing Ahmadinejad popularity among the bitter clingers was bogus.
According to NBC News, Fars offered an apology for running the Onion story, but also listed a number of similar blunders made by western news outlets, including the New York Times. It also suggested that the story was, in fact, true. Fars suggested that any honest public opinion poll would show that Americans would prefer anyone outside the American political system, presumably including Ahmadinejad, to President Obama.
To be sure Ahmadinejad would be an odd choice for popularity in the American heartland. In this year's address before the United Nations, the Iranian leader suggested that Israel "had no roots" in the Middle East and would shortly be eliminated. In a recent interview on the "Piers Morgan" CNN show, he continued to deny that the Nazi Holocaust ever happened, according to the Huffington Post.
In the meantime, Onion has updated its story on the Ahmadinejad/Obama poll with a note, "For more on this story, please visit our Iranian subsidiary organization Fars." The CNN story quoted the Onion's editor Will Tracy as emailing that Fars is in fact the Middle Eastern bureau of the Onion, having been set up in the mid-1980s with the permission of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. There is no word as of this writing whether anyone has fallen for that story.