Fact Check: CNN Did NOT Claim Colorado Shooter Was Factually Arabic But Morally White

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fact Check: CNN Did NOT Claim Colorado Shooter Was Factually Arabic But Morally White Satire

Did CNN run a caption saying the shooter who killed 10 people in Boulder, Colorado, on March 22, 2021, was factually Arabic but morally white? No, that's not true: the screenshot with the caption originated on a satire site but took on a life of its own when it went viral independently and was taken to be real by several people. The screenshot is the work of The Babylon Bee, a well-known conservative satire website.

The article containing the original image was published by The Babylon Bee on March 23, 2021, under the headline "Media Now Claims Shooter Was Factually Arabic But Morally White" (archived here) which opened:

BOULDER, CO--After 24 hours lamenting the scourge of white supremacy in America, new details revealed that an evil mass shooter was Arab. The media was able to retain their narrative, however, when further details emerged that in spite of being Arab, the shooter was morally white.

"The mass shooter was morally white," said one CNN anchor.

The Babylon Bee is a well-known satire site that mocks liberal politicians, institutions and ideas and it has often criticized and made fun of CNN in the past.

Soon after the article in question was published Facebook posts started appearing with just the digitally manipulated image that was used to illustrate the satirical article, for example here:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Mar 25 07:59:30 2021 UTC)

The comments under these posts made it clear many people did not realize the image was not real. But The Babylon Bee is a satire site with following disclaimer on the "about" page:

What is The Babylon Bee?

The Babylon Bee is the world's best satire site, totally inerrant in all its truth claims. We write satire about Christian stuff, political stuff, and everyday life.

The Babylon Bee was created ex nihilo on the eighth day of the creation week, exactly 6,000 years ago. We have been the premier news source through every major world event, from the Tower of Babel and the Exodus to the Reformation and the War of 1812. We focus on just the facts, leaving spin and bias to other news sites like CNN and Fox News.

If you would like to complain about something on our site, take it up with God.

Unlike other satire sites, everything we post is 100% verified by Snopes.com.

The site has been feuding with Snopes and CNN in the past over accusations that wasn't being transparent enough about being satirical:

Satire or Deceit? Christian Humor Site Feuds With Snopes

The Babylon Bee says Snopes went too far in fact-checking a satirical story. Snopes had suggested the Bee twisted its joke to deceive readers. It's a fake-news feud made for 2019. On one side is Snopes, the influential fact-checking website founded 25 years ago.

Babylon Bee stings CNN with satirical article: There's only room for 'one fake news site'

The Babylon Bee had some fun at the expense of CNN after one of its reporters attacked the conservative satirical site over an article's popularity on social media.

At Lead Stories we are big fans of satire but in accordance with our Satire Policy we sometimes fact check satirical content if it seems there are many people who don't get the joke (or if the joke gets stolen by Macedonian fake news sites and is then presented as "news"). To quote from our Satire Policy:

Sometimes jokes need to be fact checked. Not for you, because you are smart and you get the joke. But for the crazy uncle who thinks it is real. Or for the foreign journalist who doesn't know what The Onion is. Or for the people who missed the disclaimer and the hints. Or because the disclaimer and the hints were hidden on purpose.

And that is certainly not hypothetical in the case of The Babylon Bee:

Early in 2020 Sputnik News was fooled by a piece from The Babylon Bee into reporting Jordan Peterson would be hosting the Oscars. If only they had read our fact check from a year before...

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  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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