Apparently some media companies were again fooled by The Onion. This time, it was the satirical news website’s “George Zimmerman wins Flordia state lottery” article.
The Onion posted the satirical article, saying Zimmerman, who was acquitted on Saturday of second degree murder and manslaughter, won $37 million in the Florida Lottery.
“I just figured why not, you know? I think I’ll probably use the money to buy a bigger house and a new car, and I’ll invest the rest. This is just fantastic. Life is good,” the Onion wrote, posing as Zimmerman, who was shown grinning broadly in a photo posted above the article.
Later, the term “George Zimmerman wins lottery” appeared on popular trending aggregator website MSN Now, meaning that a number of people were searching for the term and likely were wondering if Zimmerman actually won millions of dollars.
Also, Twitter erupted over the fake lottery news, with a large number of users posting things like: “George Zimmerman the luckiest person ever. Got away with murder and hit the lottery in the same week?” as well as “How tf does George Zimmerman win the lottery right after he kills someone !!” And another wrote: “Just when you lose faith in conspiracy theories, George Zimmerman wins the lottery.”
The website Examiner.com posted an article with the title “Report: George Zimmerman wins $35 million jackpot in Florida Lottery,” questioning whether he won the lottery before the story was taken down, now showing an error message. “Is it possible that George Zimmerman is $35 million richer just days after being acquitted for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin?” the article reads.
Later, the Tampa Star posted a link to the Examiner article. “Zimmerman hit the jackpot on Saturday night and woke up a rich man Sunday morning. The report indicates that Zimmerman purchased the winning ticket shortly after a jury of six women found him not-guilty of second-degree [murder],” reads the excerpt of the Examiner report posted by the Star, citing the Onion as a source.
“It is terrible that this is being posted,” reads the lone comment on the Star’s posting. The posting generated more than 130 “likes” on Facebook.
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Several other blogs and websites took the story and posted links back to the Examiner article.
On The Onion’s Facebook page, a number of people believed the story.
“This is BS right?” wrote one user. Another added: “He should give 10 million to the family of the 17 year old he shot !”
“Not funny if this was supposed to be a joke….wondering if he really did. I would think that winning the lottery was enough of a lottery for that MURDERER,” wrote another on the page. However, other Facebook commenters told others it was merely a joke.
On Tuesday, a YouTube user posted a video questioning if Zimmerman won the lottery, asking others to leave an answer in the comments section. “I just want to know,” he says.
The website Elite Daily commented on some Facebook users’ reaction to the Onion article, saying that “it’s amazing how many people are already posting this story on Facebook” and who apparently think it’s real.
Regarding other media’s publication of the Onion report, the website added: “If you ever, ever, ever, ever (sound a bit like a Taylor Swift song, huh?), ever quote The Onion as a news source, you don’t deserve to work in media, let alone to be a human being. How could any site have actually picked this story up?”
But the Onion has fooled a number of media entities in the past. Famously, Chinese state-run mouthpiece People’s Daily posted an article that rehashed a false Onion story about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un being the “sexiest man alive.”
Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency posted a report that the Onion last year, which said most Americans prefer President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President Barack Obama. The news agency later apologized for the gaffe. It prompted the news agency to issue an apology, but it said that most media entities “have had many goofs” and stressed “[Fars] makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of its reports, however very occasionally mistakes do happen.
In the fake report, The Onion said the “overwhelming majority of rural white Americans said they would rather vote” for Ahmadinejad over Obama, saying that “77 percent of rural Caucasian voters confirmed [they] would much rather go to a baseball game or have a beer with Ahmadinejad.”