WASHINGTON, D.C., January 7, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A CNN reporter expressed alarm on Twitter that Christian conservative satire site Babylon Bee was peddling “misinformation” in a stinging piece that had Democrats flying the American flag at half-mast in honor of a terrorist who had been targeted and killed by the U.S. military.
Reporter Donie O’Sullivan, who notes on Twitter that he covers “disinformation” for CNN, stated on Twitter that he was concerned that more people were reading Babylon Bee’s satire about the death of terrorist Qassem Soleimani — titled “Democrats Call for Flags to Be Flown aAt Half-Mast to Grieve Death of Soleimani” — than reports about the event put out by the N.Y. Times and CNN. The article appeared after news came that the United States had killed Iranian general Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq that congressional Democrats claim was unwarranted.
In response to Cindy Otis, an author and former CIA official, who worried that Republicans on Facebook were circulating the satirical article as if it were a legitimate news story, O’Sullivan tweeted: “To put this in perspective, this is the same number of engagements the top NY Times and CNN stories on Facebook had over the past week.”
To put this in perspective, this is the same number of engagements the top NY Times and CNN stories on Facebook had over the past week.
A lot of people sharing this “satirical” story on Facebook don't know it is satire. https://t.co/HnDjuqw2si
— Donie O'Sullivan (@donie) January 5, 2020
O’Sullivan added, “A lot of people sharing this ‘satirical’ story on Facebook don't know it is satire.” He appeared to suggest that The Babylon Bee was less than honest about its identity as a satirical website.
“Having a disclaimer buried somewhere on your site that says it’s ‘satire’ seems like a good way to get around a lot of the changes Facebook has made to reduce the spread of clickbait and misinformation,” O’Sullivan wrote. He also asserted that some social media users apparently believe that The Babylon Bee’s satire is real news.
Having a disclaimer buried somewhere on your site that says it’s “satire” seems like a good way to get around a lot of the changes Facebook has made to reduce the spread of clickbait and misinformation.
— Donie O'Sullivan (@donie) January 5, 2020
In a response to LifeSiteNews, Babylon Bee founder Adam Ford wrote: “It’s fascinating to me that Mr. O’Sullivan can't recognize the doublethink required to publicly accuse the Babylon Bee of insidiousness while at the same time being a vocal fan of the Onion.”
Babylon Bee capitalized on the situation, putting out a piece titled “CNN Attacks Babylon Bee: ‘The Internet Is Only Big Enough for One Fake News Site’.”
CNN Attacks Babylon Bee: 'The Internet Is Only Big Enough For One Fake News Site' https://t.co/Mq0IAYhwAf
— The Babylon Bee (@TheBabylonBee) January 7, 2020
In his newsletter to subscribers, Ford wrote that “it never, ever ceases to amaze me how many of these liberals can’t see that the only reason they hate the Bee is because we are conservative, popular, and effective. That’s the only reason they hate us. If we were a progressive satire site, they would cherish us as a national treasure.” A pro-life Christian, Ford is also the founder of the news site Disrn.
“I can’t believe this thread isn’t satire,” National Review senior writer David Harsanyi quipped on social media. In an article titled “Attacks on the Babylon Bee Are Attacks on Free Expression,” Harsanyi wrote: “The Babylon Bee’s real crime, of course, is that it mocks all the wrong people. Many of the people it mocks, incidentally, are now part of a concerted effort to inhibit political speech — or to shame tech companies into inhibiting political speech.”
Labeling liberals’ criticism as “cynical partisanship,” Harsanyi went on to write that liberals believe that conservatives are susceptible to deception. He wrote: “I mean, how else could these people possibly believe the dumb things they do — right?”
On social media, Ford wrote that O’Sullivan complained about the wide circulation enjoyed by The Babylon Bee, noting that its articles are “shared a lot and some people think they're real (which will always happen with satire).” After asking whether O’Sullivan may have similarly criticized The Onion (a liberal satirical website), Ford found that O’Sullivan is a follower. Ford wrote on Twitter: “As it turns out, Mr. O'Sullivan HAS tweeted about the Onion. But it looks like he’s quite the fan!” and pointed out that O’Sullivan made several posts on Twitter in praise of The Onion.
In 2019, The Babylon Bee retained legal counsel following a probe by the investigative website Snopes. Known for a liberal bias, Snopes bills itself as the “internet's go-to source for discerning what is true and what is total nonsense.”
At issue was a spoof article published by the Babylon Bee about Georgia state representative Erica Thomas (D). Thomas had made news for claiming that a white man at a grocery checkout lane had supposedly told her to leave the country. In reality, the man had complained that Thomas was using the express lane despite having too many items to purchase. Thomas eventually conceded that she may not have heard him correctly, saying, “I don’t know if he said ‘go back,’ or those types of words.”
The Babylon Bee satire article portrayed Thomas broadcasting that Chick-fil-A employees had told her to “go back to your country” when what they had said to her was the company’s employees’ well known “my pleasure” for serving her. In addition to mocking Rep. Thomas, the spoof alluded to liberal targeting of Chick-fil-A, which had long been identified with Christians and family values.
While Snopes did identify The Babylon Bee as a satirical website, it nonetheless rated the article as “False” and claimed that the “line between fact and fiction here is a bit blurry.” Snopes accused the satirical site of “an apparent attempt to maximize the online indignation” and editorialized in its sub-headline, “We’re not sure if fanning the flames of controversy and muddying the details of a news story classify an article as ‘satire.’”
Concerned over a possible drop in revenue, Babylon Bee founder Adam Ford denounced Snopes and its “fact-check” in several social media posts, criticizing Snopes for its omission of key details of the real Thomas story and for attributing malicious intent to the satirical outlet, even while it framed spoofs by The Onion much more favorably.