Martin Eisenstadt, Hoover Institute, MSNBC
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Phony McCain Adviser Fools Media, Bloggers Alike

November 13, 2008 01:58 PM
by Emily Coakley
A blog, institute and McCain campaign advisor named Martin Eisenstadt have turned out to be fake, in one of the latest incidents in a long line of media hoaxes.

“Blogger” Falsely Claimed Credit

MSNBC was criticized for being taken in by a fake blogger who billed himself as an advisor to John McCain’s campaign. The blogger, known as Martin Eisenstadt, said he was the source of a Fox News story in which a McCain aide claimed Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country, not a continent.

During a broadcast Monday, MSNBC’s David Shuster said Eisenstadt was the source of the story, and then retracted that statement moments later.

According to The New York Times, Eisenstadt and the think tank he claims to work for, the Harding Institute, don’t exist. The newspaper said, “[A] pair of obscure filmmakers say they created Martin Eisenstadt to help them pitch a TV show based on the character.”

MSNBC is only the latest to be taken in. Other publications and blogs that have linked to or cited Eisenstadt include Mother Jones, the Los Angeles Times and The New Republic, the Times said.

The blog in question, for its part, continues to perpetuate the hoax. An entry posted on Wednesday said, “As anyone who’s been reading my blog knows, I deny any and all accusations that I somehow don’t exist.”

Eisenstadt embedded a video of a BBC documentary in which he “appeared,” and linked to other YouTube clips of himself.

Opinion & Analysis: Blogs, media not so different; what’s the big deal?

On the blog Jossip, David Hauslaib wrote about the “moral” of the Eisenstadt hoax.

“Blogs get a lot of [expletive] for not ‘vetting stories,’ ‘fact checking,’ or even ‘reporting.’ Well guess what? Mainstream news media don’t do that either,” he wrote. “But Eisenstadt’s prank—one we’ll go so far as to call brilliant—shows that simply repeating the allegations in an unsolicited email, even if it’s from somebody at the (fake) ‘Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy,’ is also not ‘reporting.’ Especially when sites like are out there, which already identified Eisenstadt as a hoax.”

But others didn’t think the hoax was a big deal. On the site Death by 1000 Paper Cuts, a writer identified as Mondoreb said, “The Eisenstadt hoax was discovered and reported upon. It’s a mistake to think that anyone reporting on the original story somehow had their credibility harmed when they quickly reported that it was a sham story.”

Mondoreb goes on to say that other hoaxes continue without being exposed.

“The man-made climate change hoax has been discovered, but remains largely unreported in the Mainstream Media.”

Related Topics: Fake New York Times and other media hoaxes

On Wednesday, commuters in several cities received what appeared to be free copies of The New York Times. The papers were 14-page editions with a headline “Iraq War Ends,” and other stories that describe, “a liberal utopia of national health care, a rebuilt economy, progressive taxation, a national oil fund to study climate change, and other goals of progressive politics,” wrote the City Room Blog, of the real New York Times.

The fake newspapers, dated July 4, 2009, were an elaborate hoax by a group called the Yes Men.

Hoaxes are nothing new in the media. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times had to apologize for an article about rapper Tupac Shakur’s death that was based on forged FBI documents.

Newspapers and blogs aren’t the only ones who are susceptible. In May, the memoir “Love and Consequences,” allegedly about a woman’s experience in a gang, was found to be a fabrication. The author, Margaret Seltzer, said the book was “based on accounts of real experiences,” according to findingDulcinea.

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