Encounters of The Fake Kind

Submitted by Admin on Thu, 03/02/2017 - 11:12

My first encounter with what is now called "Fake News" occurred many years ago when I was working for the Associated Press in Texas, and we published a story about a bogus Boris Badenov.

For those of you too young to remember, Boris Badenov was the nemesis and foil on the hit cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which ran on ABC and NBC from 1959 to 1965 (and remains in syndication today).

Boris Badenov was a spy for the fictional nation of Pottsylvania who took orders from that nation's fearless leader, Mr. Big.

Mr. Big weekly ordered Boris on missions ranging from trying to steal a secret rocket fuel formula to eliminating all television programming in the United States.

Boris was almost always accompanied by his sidekick Natasha Fatale, who is the fictional only child of Axis Sally and Count Dracula. She is a former Miss Transylvania who was expelled from college for subversive activities at a local cemetery.

Boris, Natasha, and Mr. Big were almost always thwarted, by the end of the show, by Rocky and Bullwinkle. Rocky is a pretty smart squirrel, and Bullwinkle an awkward-thinking moose.

The "fake news" -- Bogus Boris -- story occurred in the early 1970s when a radio disc jockey in Tyler, Texas, started doing impersonations of Boris, and other characters from the show on a local radio station.

The DJ - whose name I can't recall- started claiming on the air that he was the original voice of Boris Badenov.

Repeating such Boris best lines as: "You busy-bodies have busied your last body" he became a celebrity in East Texas.

An East Texas daily newspaper did a story profiling the DJ, stating that he was the original voice of Boris. The AP Dallas bureau picked up the story, and it was distributed worldwide on the AP's "A" wire.

Mark Twain once famously said, "There are only two forces that can carry light to all the corners of the globe...the sun in the heavens and the Associated Press down here."

So, while it was safe for the DJ to claim he was Boris in Tyler, Texas (in the days before the World Wide Web and I-Heart Radio), he couldn't get away with the claim when the claim was carried to all corners of the world by the AP.

The fake news - the Bogus Boris Badenov- was unmasked when the real original voice of Boris read the AP story when it was published in Hollywood.

The real voice was an actor, impressionist, comedian and screenwriter Paul Frees, known widely as the "man of a thousand voices."

When unmasked, the Bogus Boris story caused great consternation at the AP Dallas bureau. We ran a mandatory "kill" on the story.

But then we decided the whole episode was really hilarious.

We ran a story about the story, and the lead ran something like this:

"DALLAS (AP) - Boris Badenov was bad enough, but a Bogus Boris was too much."

The follow-up story was published more widely and more prominently than the original story.

Occasionally, we ought not always take ourselves too seriously.

As Bullwinkle once famously said: "Well, if you can't believe what you read in a comic book, what can you believe?"

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