"Unpresidented: Trump Hastily Departs White House Ending Crisis. Celebrations break out worldwide as Trump era ends."
Newspapers bearing the above banner headline, under The Washington Post masthead were distributed to pedestrians in Washington DC, leading many of the President's supporters as well as critics to temporarily believe that the Rapture or rapture (depending on their political position) had finally arrived. Alas, it was fake news. And it wasn't the Washington Post.
The real Washington Post itself reported on the story, writing, "Fake editions of The Washington Post claiming that President Trump was leaving office were handed out Wednesday morning at multiple locations in Washington. The print papers — dated May 1, 2019, and looking strikingly similar to actual copies of The Post — were filled with anti-Trump stories, which also appeared on a website that mimicked the official Post site."
The publication's spokeswoman Kris Coratti further said, “We will not tolerate others misrepresenting themselves as The Washington Post, and we are deeply concerned about the confusion it causes among readers. We are seeking to halt further improper use of our trademarks.”
This announcement by the real newspaper came a short while after people took to social media to post (haha) pictures of the fake newspaper, and asking what was going on.
Hey @washingtonpost: Someone is passing out fake copies of the paper (top)? For comparison, a real issue of the Post below. pic.twitter.com/j7svhBDfJF— Adrienne Shih👩🏻💻 (@adrienneshih) January 16, 2019
Actual #FakeNews being spread around D.C. today. People handing out these fake @washingtonpost papers justify it by pointing to the date on the papers. They say they’re allowed to dream. pic.twitter.com/xY0eyD98pl— Mark Irons (@MarkIronsMedia) January 16, 2019
According to reports, the Yes Men, a Trickster activist collective later revealed that they had been behind the prank newspaper as well as the fake website, with both being taken down, out of circulation and offline respectively, by late Wednesday afternoon.
This was after the newspaper’s public relations department tweeted: “There are fake print editions of The Washington Post being distributed around downtown DC, and we are aware of a website attempting to mimic The Post’s. They are not Post products, and we are looking into this.”
There are fake print editions of The Washington Post being distributed around downtown DC, and we are aware of a website attempting to mimic The Post’s. They are not Post products, and we are looking into this.— Washington Post PR (@WashPostPR) January 16, 2019
The Guardian spoke to noted activist LA Kauffman, who said that she and fellow activist Onnesha Roychoudhuri had coordinated the creation and dissemination of the fake newspaper. The inspiration for the same had apparently come from discussions and meetings with the Yes Men, which began in spring 2018.
“It was designed as a creative intervention to help spread hope and joy,” Kauffman said told the Guardian, adding, “The element of surprise was important for that goal.”
Though it used fictional all-female bylines, Kauffman said that the faux paper’s articles are actual excerpts of writings from authors and activists who gave “enthusiastic permission” for their work being used for the sociopolitical stunt.
Kauffman, who also spoke to the actual Post, said 12 individuals had helped design and print of the newspaper, while around 25 people help distribute them across various locations in DC. Meanwhile, Andy Bichlbaum, co-founder of the Yes Men, told WaPo reporters that the printing of the 25,000 papers had cost $40,000, which was mostly raised through the group’s mailing list.
Several people accosted the distributors, angrily telling them that stunts like these lend credence to Trump and his sycophants' constant cry of "fake news", while making the public mistrust the media, which is already handicapped by people doubting it. However, they were met with the retort that this was an expression of hope and not deception.
.@washingtonpost you might want to deal with the lady handing out fake copies of the Post outside Union Station. I tried to explain why this is problematic but she wasn’t having it. pic.twitter.com/pjohcCFSx7— Ian Kullgren (@IanKullgren) January 16, 2019
I guess that's what they call the American dream.