USA Today fell for an internet prank, falsely reporting that famed author and playwright Cormac McCarthy suffered a deadly stroke at the age of 82.
The newspaper tweeted the false story as well as an update that it was “looking in this report” to verify its authenticity. New York magazine captured the mistake before USA Today deleted the tweet.
This was news to McCarthy’s publisher Penguin Random House, which tweeted, “Cormac McCarthy is alive and well and still doesn’t care about Twitter.”
Cormac McCarthy is alive and well and still doesn't care about Twitter.
— Penguin Random House (@penguinrandom) June 28, 2016
USA Today eventually sent another tweet, noting that “Cormac McCarthy is not dead” and a “rogue” Twitter account posted that information. The “rogue” tweet was sent by a fake account for Knopf publishing, according to New York magazine. Italian journalist Tommasso Debendetti is believed to be behind the prank.
McCarthy won a Pulitzer Prize for literature in 2007 for his book “The Road.” He also penned “No Country for Old Men,” which was adapted into the hit Coen brothers film.
UPDATE: Author Cormac McCarthy is not dead, his publicist says. A "rogue" Twitter account posted that information.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) June 28, 2016
Naturally, social media exploded with criticism of USA Today. Here are a few examples:
— Jon Rohlf (@jonrohlf) June 28, 2016
@USATODAY blaming a "rogue" Twitter account for y'all's lack of verification & YOUR erroneous death report, is just plain lame aF.
— @MandaGator (@MandaGator) June 28, 2016
@USATODAY and you posted it w/o first verifying it. Congrats
— Andrew Acuna (@AcunaAndrew) June 28, 2016
— Bad Lizard (@Bad_Lizard) June 28, 2016
— The Mouth (@TheMouthLAKings) June 28, 2016