PR firm reacts to satirical Onion article about Ala., U.S. going separate ways

Published: Feb. 7, 2013 at 11:31 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2013 at 11:31 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Laughter and satire are a welcome relief from the day-to-day aspects of life, but today, it seems the joke in on Alabama. You've probably heard of the satirical website The Onion. It posts fake news to make its readers laugh. Thursday, it published an article about Alabama possibly seceding from the United States because the state gives the rest of the country a bad name.

The problem is, the fake article quotes real people - who didn't want to be included in the joke -and who are now being forced to do damage control.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, wrapping up his 2013 State of the State address Tuesday night with encouragement, said "Fifty years ago, the eyes of the world were on Alabama.  Today, let's invite the world to look to Alabama again. And let's show them a state that works together, one that innovates and creates economic opportunity for all its citizens."

Perhaps a scathing, though satirical, article from The Onion isn't what Governor Bentley had in mind. For all intents and purposes, the article in question is fake. The far-fetched headline reads, "PR Firm To Cut Ties With Alabama".

In the piece, The Onion, known for its satire wrapped in what appears to be legitimate news reports, cites the firm Hill+Knowlton, a real global public relations firm, which encourages the government to disaffiliate from the state of Alabama due to its perception as, "…misguided, intolerant and poorly educated." The article even plays up the state's past dealings with civil rights.

Under lights and heavy music, The Onion even created a fake video news report with a fictitious Hill+Knowlton employee named Marsha Habar, who was said to be the Senior Director for Hill+Knowlton Strategies. "The fact is, the state has become a liability to the country's brand," the actress playing Habar explains. "Times are changing, and we think it would be best if Alabama and America went their separate ways."

WSFA 12 News reached out to Hill+Knowlton for a response to the article. Rebecca Ballard, VP of Hill+Knowlton responded saying, "As with all other stories in The Onion, this one is indeed fictional. Hill+Knowlton Strategies was not aware of the story until after it was published, and, for the record, the firm loves the state of Alabama."

The PR firm said it would not be considering a legal response.

Just for fun, The Onion responded to the real news report of its fake news report, poking fun at Hill+Knowlton.

"In over 240 years of journalism, The Onion has never made a mistake in its reporting, and we regret to hear that Hill+Knowlton is publicly reneging on their prior statement. The Onion suggests that, in the future, Hill+Knowlton consider hiring a PR firm to help them navigate situations such as this one."

The Onion claims to get about 40 million page views on its website per month. The jokes keep coming, but not everyone is laughing.

To read the full article or video from The Onion, CLICK HERE.

Copyright 2013 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.