Lawmaker office duped by The Onion's Planned Parenthood satire

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) fell victim to satirical news outlet The Onion on Friday, reposting a story facetiously reporting that Planned Parenthood had announced the opening "of its long-planned $8 billion Abortionplex" on his Facebook page.

The article, which is months old, was reposted on the paper's website last week amidst controversy over the Susan G. Komen Foundation's announcement — later retracted — that it wouldn't provide grants to Planned Parenthood because it was under congressional investigation. The breast cancer charity had previously provided funding for cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics. Ensuing criticism from abortion rights and women's health advocates led to a reversal of that decision.

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The Onion's article was a satire aimed at opponents of Planned Parenthood, who often denounce the organization for performing abortions.

"Although we've traditionally dedicated 97 percent of our resources to other important services such as contraception distribution, cancer screening, and STD testing, this new complex allows us to devote our full attention to what has always been our true passion: abortion," the article facetiously quotes Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards as saying.

But Fleming — or whoever on his congressional staff is responsible for updating his Facebook page — took the article at face value. The post has since been removed, but not before being posted on Literally Unbelievable, a blog that chronicles instances of Facebook users who believe Onion stories are real.

"More on Planned Parenthood, abortion by the wholesale," Fleming's comment reads.

Fleming's office did not immediately return a request for comment.

"We're delighted to hear that Rep. Fleming is a regular reader of America's Finest News Source and doesn't bother himself with the New York Times, Washington Post, the mediums of television and radio, or any other lesser journalism outlets," said Joe Randazzo, The Onion's editor in a statement to The Hill.  

Fleming has been an ardent opponent of abortion rights in the House, voting to ban federal health coverage that includes abortion and to prohibit federal funding to Planned Parenthood. 

"Nearly 50 million tiny, defenseless children have been aborted since the Supreme Court's infamous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. This is our national sin, shame, and disgrace," Fleming's campaign website says. "It is a perversion of medicine. It is a perversion of law."

Fleming is not the first high-profile example of The Onion being taken at face value. China's Beijing Evening News — the capital city's largest-circulation newspaper and an arm of the state-run media — took at face value an Onion story in 2002 that Congress was threatening to leave Washington, D.C. unless a new Capitol was built. That article, in which former Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) was "quoted" demanding new facilities to keep Congress from bolting to Memphis or Charlotte, was a send-up of professional sports teams demanding new stadium facilities.

Judy Kurtz contributed.