This morning a press release about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s health appeared on the Conservative Party of Canada’s website. Within about an hour of the press release hitting twitter, it was confirmed to be false.
The press release, which has since been removed, read:
PRIME MINISTER RUSHED TO HOSPITAL AFTER BREAKFAST INCIDENT
JUNE 07, 2011
The prime minister has been rushed to Toronto General Hospital (TGH) this morning after an incident at breakfast. According to staff at the hospital, Harper was brought in via helicopter early this morning after his wife called 911. He was eating breakfast with his kids when a piece of hash-brown lodged in his throat, blocking air from reaching his lungs. A member of his security team happened to be nearby, and immediately began to apply first-aid.
Due to the nature of the incident, we are cautiously assuming that the Prime minister will completely recover within the next few days. From the looks of things, Harper will miss many of his planned meetings over the next few days. He had just arrived home last night from his planned trip to the Richelieu flood zone in Quebec. We are awaiting any further word of his condition from the doctors and staff of TGH, and wish the best to him and his family.
People were immediately suspicious of the press release. Not only did it sound eerily similar to the George Bush pretzel incident in 2002, but it was also odd that Harper would have been sent by helicopter to Toronto for a choking incident instead of going to a hospital in Ottawa, if hospitalization was even necessary.
Shortly after 8:30am, about 30 minutes after people first started tweeting about the press release, the Prime Minister’s Communications Director, Dimitri Soudas (@PMOSoudas) confirmed that it was false. He tweeted: “PM Harper took his daughter Rachel to school this morning and is on his way to Parliament Hill.”
The press release had a ripple effect too. Apparently some Conservative Members of Parliament, like Chris Alexander (@calxandr) automatically tweet new press releases from the Conservative Party website. As a result, Alexander initially thought his twitter account had been hacked and apologized to his followers for it.
Reaction on twitter to the news that the Conservative website was hacked has been mixed. CBC reporter Rosemary Barton (@RosieBarton) tweeted: “I don’t find jokes about someone’s health amusing.” Jeff Paradis (@JeffParadis), an NDP organizer in Quebec, tweeted “Whoever hacked conservative.ca made me smile and is hereby thanked.”
So far no one has claimed credit for the hacking.
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Photo credit: TeddyBoy on flickr
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