Duped on mayoral Twitter
I got duped.
Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon does not have a Twitter page and did not respond to Britain's Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling's rebuke of the city by referencing The Wire. It was a hoax, I learned this morning, and City Hall is trying to figure how a fake Internet page with the mayor's seal was born.
It all started earlier this week when Grayling made comments about the city of Manchester, the one across the Atlantic, and said a few dozen murders there made it just like way Baltimore is portrayed in The Wire. That got a whole bunch of people in Britain upset and set off a mini-media frenzy there.
Of course, the British media sought comment from Baltimore; I was contacted by a newspaper in Manchester and by the BBC. Then I got a call from a Baltimore official pointing out that Dixon had started a Twitter page and her very first comment defended Baltimore against the British pol.
I should've realized some of the only-in-Britain terms, and put a call into the mayor's office, but I went ahead and posted it. The mayor's spokesman, Scott Peterson, got a call from BBC at 4 a.m. hoping to get Dixon on television to repeat the statement she had purportedly Twittered.
"What statement?" Peterson replied, perplexed.
Turns out the Twitter page and mayorofbaltimore.org is fake, apparently set up by a guy known as Recess Monkey in Britain, who joked about what he had done on his web site this morning: "Churnalists made to look like monkeys."
The British Guardian posted a correction this morning on their web story that quoted the mayor's statement: "The mayor of Baltimore did not make the statements attributed to her in the story below -- we were caught by a hoax."
Peterson said he didn't bother to initially check the web sites because he's so used to fending off calls from reporters about the city and The Wire, which is playing in Britain and is a huge hit.
I got this e-mail (and confirmed it by talking with him) from the hoaxer, Alex Hilton:
I'm so sorry about drawing you into this. Being bored I mocked something up to amuse a few friends and it got passed on more than I expected. I really didn't mean to draw in any mainstream journalists. The whole piece was packed full of punchlines and on writing it, I thought the moment anyone hit "Midsomer Murders" it would be inconceivable that it was a real statement. And then I thought the video would be the belly laugh.
I hope everyone in your office is seeing the humour in this.