According to the city, a hate crime investigation at Lewiston Middle School was parodied on an Associated Press look-alike website, complete with fake quotes from the school superintendent.
The Lewiston Sun Journal is reporting that the fake story then aired as fact on a national Fox broadcast.
The controversy stems from an incident at Lewiston Middle School in which a non-Muslim student, goaded by peers, allegedly placed a ham steak on a table where a some Muslim students were eating lunch. Pork is considered offensive to Muslims.
That's not the way the story was presented on a website known as Associated Content. The first line of that story reads: "A middle school student in Lewiston, Maine is being investigated for a hate crime after he placed a bag containing a ham sandwich on a table where Somali students eat lunch."
The article also quotes school superintendent Leon Levesque as saying "these children have got to learn that ham is not a toy and students cannot be nonchalant about where you put your sandwich."
Levesque says that statement and several others were completely fabricated.
"It seemed like all the facts were incorrect," said Levesque.
Levesque's office received a flurry of angry phone calls and emails from across the country. He says he later discovered the parody story attributed the Associated Press as its source, and Fox News Channel and some of its affiliates picked the story up.
"The story is not what actually happened at our middle school because that's been handled and dealt with. The story is the role and power of the media in our county and what responsibility do they have to put a story on as fact to verify what that story is," said Levesque.
Levesque says the middle school is addressing any issues of intolerance, and has been teamed up with the Maine Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence for several years. He feels the factual inaccuracies have created more turmoil than was necessary.
Associated Content issued a statement that read
"We apologize for any offense that the story may have caused. This humor piece was misplaced on our site due to a filing error. It is now in the humor section of the site, where it belongs."
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Some blogs and news outlets ham it up on bogus ham story. This blog was not one of them.
Posted by Audrey Hudson at Thursday, April 26, 2007