The Twitter feed operated by the satirical national newspaper The Onion created some confusion in Washington on Thursday with a series of tweets proclaiming breaking news of a hostage situation inside the Capitol building.
A pair of tweets started the apparent commotion. "BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building," the first tweet read, followed by another: "BREAKING: Capitol building being evacuated. 12 children held hostage by group of armed congressmen #CongressHostage"
The tweets recalled a similar flurry last month, when the Twitter feed for NBC News issued several false reports of an apparent terrorist attack on New York two days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11. NBC said it was the victim of a hack, and that the FBI was investigating the incident.
The Onion's feed then published a third tweet with a link to a satirical article with the headline, "Congress Takes Group Of Schoolchildren Hostage": "Brandishing shotguns and semiautomatic pistols, members of the 112th U.S. Congress took a class of visiting schoolchildren hostage today, barricading themselves inside the Capitol rotunda and demanding $12 trillion dollars in cash."
Successive tweets satirically reported the hostage situation as if it was happening in real time:
Child with asthma released as gesture of good will #CongressHostage
Reports from those who know Congress say the legislative body had seemed desperate as of late #CongressHostage
Three-course lunch from Charlie Palmer's Steakhouse delivered as per Rep. Boehner's demands #CongressHostage
The real U.S. Capitol police, however, didn't find it so funny, issuing a statement on the matter.
"It has come to our attention that recent Twitter feeds are reporting false information concerning current conditions at the U.S. Capitol. Conditions at the U.S. Capitol are currently normal," U.S. Capitol police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said in a press release. "There is no credibility to these stories or the twitter feeds. The U.S. Capitol Police are currently investigating the reporting."
When reached by The Cutline, a spokeswoman for The Onion declined to comment.