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Are the Chinese Media Going After Obama?

Nov 30, 2012

By Paul Pennay

The day after People's Daily became the laughing stock of the world for apparently becoming the latest in a long line of Chinese media outlets to run a piece from the U.S. satirical website The Onion as if it were genuine, two regional Chinese newspapers also ran a story about a scandal involving sex, drugs and the sitting president of the United States.

The story, which was based on extremely flimsy allegations made by a man named Larry Sinclair during the 2008 election campaign, was widely reposted across China's top news portals including SinaSohu, and Baidu on Wednesday. State media websites like Xinhua and People\'s Daily also reposted versions of the story.

It seems that some sections of the Chinese press might be on the look out for embarrassing stories involving the U.S. President.

This morning, articles about Michelle Obama "flying into a fury" over "flirty" photographs of Obama and the Thai Prime Minister, based on a piece that appeared in American supermarket tabloid and bastion of journalistic integrity the National Enquirer, are also getting quite a bit of play on the big portal sites.

I only became aware of the first news item after a colleague asked me over MSN if reports about a "homosexuality incident" involving Obama were true.

It seems that for some unknown reason, allegations from an unreliable source that were considered so far-fetched four years ago that they barely rated a mention in mainstream media in the U.S. at the time, are now being picked up and run in some Chinese news outlets as if they were fresh allegations.

It's a little difficult to untangle the web of links and establish just which news outlet first decided to dig up this old article and run it as news.

The piece that appeared in Wednesday\'s Lanzhou Morning Post is based on a People\'s Daily Online report from the previous day. 

A similar article with a Nov 27 dateline can be found on the Chinese-language website of both Xinhua News Agency and the People's Daily, though both these articles cite the Global Times as their source.

However, a quick search of the Global Times Chinese-language website only produces a report from back in 2008, back when the original allegations made a few ripples in the English-language media.

very short article in the sidebar of page 23 of Wednesday's Qilu Evening News, a popular daily newspaper published in Shandong's Ji'nan, also carried the news. SinaSohu and China Daily all reposted the text of this report.

That article, which cites "reports," presents the allegations as fresh and the author doesn't appear to be aware that Larry Sinclair long ago failed the polygraph test that the article says he is still willing to take.

Unraveling the overlapping links of the source of today's article about a jealous Michelle Obama which has also been reposted on the websites of Xinhua, People\'s Daily and CCTV, is also tricky.

A version of the story that was posted to Tencent\'s news platform earlier this morning links back to Xinmin - a news website affiliated with the Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News - but the story on Xinmin\'s website says it is based on a Xinhua News Agency story.

Over at Xinhua's website, some of the articles cite Xinmin as the source, others say the story is being reposted from a report which appeared on page 6 of today's Xiandai Kuaibao (Modern Express), a Nanjing-based daily affiliated with Xinhua News Agency.

The version of the story that appears on the People\'s Daily site is attributed to a report over at China Economic Net, which again traces back to the Xinmin Evening News article.

Are regional papers and major web portals simply trying to attract more clicks by translating dubious yet eye-catching reports picked up from the foreign media?

Whatever the motivation for running these stories, the willingness of the major news portal sites to blindly repost them without vetting them for accuracy or reliability displays their complete lack of editorial judgment.


Comments(The views posted belong to the commentator, not representative of the EO)

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