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'Fox and Friends' Spreads Unfounded Claim on Boston Cartoon Gizmos

Reported by Judy - February 1, 2007 -

The three blind mice of American journalism on Thursday (February 1, 2007) spread a baseless claim that publicists involved in a cartoon show promotion themselves called Boston police to alert them to the devices they had placed around town, setting off a day of frantic efforts to dismantle them that tied the city in knots. With video.

The idea that the people who planted the cartoon publicity devices called police started out as the "Question of the Day" on "Fox and Friends," when co-host Steve Doocy asked viewers to call in or email, reacting to the question, "Do you think it's a PR stunt gone awry or did they plan for the chaos? Could they have possibly made the phone calls to police?"

The proposition was repeated as a question two more times. (In all, "Fox and Friends" mentioned the Boston scare 11 times in two hours). By the time of the fifth mention, the idea that someone affiliated with the publicity campaign themselves had called police had moved from a question to a supposition.

Co-host Brian Kilmeade noted that the devices had been up for 10 days without being noticed and concluded, "There's got to be a trigger, there's got to be a reason why after 10 days all of a sudden this whole plan was revealed."

Doocy chimed in that, "Well maybe it was because nobody had spotted it and they weren't getting the kind of traction they wanted to get out of it. One official up in Boston said we don't know exactly who called police, 9-1-1 to report these things all over town but there was no suggestion that it was panicked residents."

A little later on, Doocy said he had read in one of the Boston newspapers that "maybe it was actually the people who planted the gizmos ... that called the city." But when he asked the Fox News reporter covering the story in Boston about that, Molly Line said the calls seemed to have come from a combination of sources.

Eventually, co-host Gretchen Carlson got into the act, saying, "So the question became yesterday, possibly did their own people who were behind this campaign call in to authorities to try and create even more publicity for this cartoon stunt that they had started that nobody was picking up on."

The question actually is a legitimate one -- how did this stunt become known? And in fact two Boston newspapers did provide information for curious readers.

From the Boston Globe: "The ordeal began around 8 a.m. when an MBTA worker spotted one of the devices affixed to an Interstate 93 ramp near Sulllivan Square in Charlestown, forcing the shutdown of the northbound side of the Interstate and tying up traffic for hours."

The Boston Herald had a similar report: "The bomb scare reports began about 8 a.m. when a MBTA worker reported a package with wires and tubes protruding from it that was stuck on a steel girder under Interstate 93 at Sullivan Square Station in Charlestown. The devices, featuring characters with raised middle fingers, had magnetic backs and were affixed to metal."

So, according to two Boston newspapers, it was not calls from some unknown publicist who sparked the panic. It was an alert (well, kind of alert) city worker who saw it and called in the first report. There were calls from citizens later in the day, but why would those affiliated with the campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force cartoon show have started calling in once the stunt already was in the process of being revealed?

Maybe they did start calling in, but the problem with the "Fox and Friends" report is that they had no proof that they did, they had nothing to base their statements on, which morphed from a "question" to an insinuation to almost an accusation over the course of the show.

As the two-hour show went on, the co-hosts could not decide if they wanted to spread the idea that Ted Turner had intentionally panicked the city of Boston over nothing or if they wanted to continue to spread the panic themselves.

Doocy, for example, hyped the fact that not all the devices had yet been recovered, and underlined the fact that "it looks as if" it was part of a publicity stunt, as if there were some question still whether it was a terror plot.

And Kilmeade went on to tie the public's reaction to the kidnap plot linked to Al Qaeda uncovered in Great Britain, suggesting that the public should have been frightened when they saw these devices (but apparently they weren't because they didn't bother to call police).

Even as "Fox and Friends" claimed it may have been Turner Broadcasting that was calling police to tell them about the devices, other news organizations were suggesting Turner Broadcasting was intentionally laying low.

"Fox and Friends'" unfolding "coverage" was another stunt similar to the phony "Barack Obama attended a madrassa and we know it's true because Hillary Clinton says so" story that the trio spread last month.

For that they've already been dressed down in public and lectured in private via memo by their boss.

So for this, they're probably expecting a raise.