(Chicago, IL) – Despite the wacky, Onion-like satirical content of a post by an NBC Chicago TV blogger on a recently introduced same-sex marriage bill in Springfield, a Chicago-based gay rights group suspended disbelief to issue a stream of press releases condemning the “Lonesome No More Act,” which prompted the author to add an up-front warning that his article was indeed satire, the activist group claimed.*
NBC Chicago TV “Ward Room” blogger Edward McClelland’s post, “Fat, Broke, Smelly People Want Marriage Equality, Too”, stated two downstate lawmakers introduced the ‘legislation’ on Wednesday of last week in Springfield.
“Marriage in this country is in crisis. Fifty years, almost every American, no matter how poor, hideous or unwashed, was able to find a spouse,” State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D ‘said’ at a state capitol news conference this morning,” McClelland wrote.
Neither the headline, nor the quote, nor the lack of other media reports on either the three-day old ‘introduced bill’ or the Saturday ‘news conference’ triggered a public relations gut check for gay rights group The Civil Rights Agenda.
The group’s Executive Director Anthony Martinez issued multiple press releases on Saturday afternoon accusing the lawmakers, State Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville) and Phelps, of “political grandstanding” while pouring scorn on the ‘proposal’.
From the group’s first press release at 3:45 p.m.
“Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA), Illinois’ leading Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) civil rights advocacy organization, has learned that Illinois State Representatives Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville, and Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, have introduced the Lonesome No More Act in the Illinois General Assembly. The act would guarantee the right to marry to Illinoisans who are unemployed, obese or have terrible personal hygiene.”
Martinez claims his press release prompted McClelland to post a satire warning label. At 6:17 p.m. a non-specified update was indeed added to the blog. The post includes this upfront author comment:
“Ward Room Blogger Edward McClelland often uses satire in this space. This is one of those times. Please read it with satire in mind.”
At 5:59 p.m., this blogger, after reviewing Eddy and Phelp’s on-line, legislation sponsorship list and finding no-such legislation and after conducting a Google search that revealed no other reporting on the ‘press conference’ during the day, e-mailed Martinez a link to McClelland’s piece, with the satire warning label included, and asked if the group was responding to the NBC Chicago post and if had he a number for the “introduced” bill?
Martinez’s response was curt: “The sponsors had a press conference today in Springfield. They bill has not been filed as of yet. Please let me know if you have any other questions.”
This blogger had no other questions. Dinner, not a satire sand trap, beckoned.
In the following hours, despite the satire warning in place, Martinez issued two “correction” press releases backing peddling on the bill “introduction” claim but still peddling the group’s criticism of Eddy and Phelps’ ‘press conference’.
Finally, at 7:49 p.m., the group surrendered to the satire’s reality and issued its fourth press release of the day, a retraction:
“Whoops! Things have been extremely busy in terms of legislation and the LGBT community in Illinois this week. We also have been fighting some pretty extreme and discriminatory legislation and attacks against the LGBT community in Illinois. Unfortunately, legislation like the “Lonesome No More” Act is real for the LGBT community across the United States, such as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” in Tennessee.
“We were tipped off by a Springfield resident that thought this was real, and stated to us that they were in attendance at the press conference. We realize now that the below article is satire, and will ensure that we triple check our sources in the future.”
An assortment of single, professional public relations reality checks should have applied the breaks on the group’s first press release. Oh, well.
Unfortunately, the group compounded is it public relations goof by failing to offer an official apology to Eddy and Phelps in its “retraction”.
There is still time for another press release “correction.”
*This post has been updated at the request of the Civil Rights Agenda which claimed there was no initial “satire warning label” in the original version of the NBC Chicago TV post.