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How A Fake Text Message From Omar Mateen Fooled Spanish-Language Media

It originated in English on a fake news website.

Posted on July 6, 2016, at 4:53 p.m. ET

Several large Spanish-language media outlets have published a completely false report that Omar Mateen texted his wife to tell her he carried out the Orlando shootings because he was gay.

The story originated on ABCNews.com.co, a site intended to spoof the real ABC News website. Its hoax story featured a fake text message from Mateen that supposedly had been released by the FBI.

ABCNews.com.co publishes only fake news stories. In the past it scored hits with hoaxes such as a claim that Bill Murray would be running for U.S. president, and a story about Donald Trump naming Sheriff Joe Arpaio as his running mate.

It appears that El Mundo, a major newspaper in Spain, was the first to fall for the hoax. It published a story that attributed the information to the real ABC News. The paper also translated many of the details from the fake story.

A some point on Wednesday it must have realized its mistake, as the story has been completely removed from its website. But an archived version is available here.
El Mundo

A some point on Wednesday it must have realized its mistake, as the story has been completely removed from its website. But an archived version is available here.

By the time El Mundo removed its story it was already too late. The hoax had spread quickly through Spanish-language media in other parts of the world. El Comercio in Peru and El Pais in Uruguay ran the story, with both offering credit to ABC News and El Mundo.

The hoax also made its way to media in Paraguay and Ecuador.
El Comercio / Via elcomercio.pe

The hoax also made its way to media in Paraguay and Ecuador.

Google News is now filled with articles in Spanish that report the hoax as true. They credit ABC News or other Spanish-language media such as El Mundo with the information.

Google News

Meanwhile, the hoax isn't getting as much traction in English. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had been shared close to 600 times on Facebook but had not fooled any major media outlets.

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