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'Onion' spoof on Zimmerman winning lottery fools news, social media

Fake Onion news headline picked up by news outlets.

By Rich Maloof

The headline was literally unbelievable: "George Zimmerman Wins Florida State Lottery." Before any quick-clicking news mongers verified the source, this spoof from The Onion had been picked up by freelance outlet The Examiner and was rapidly making the rounds on social media yesterday.

SANFORD, FL - JULY 8: George Zimmerman leaves the courtroom for the lunch break during the 20th day of his trial in Seminole circuit court, July 8, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Donnelly identified the screams as belonging to Zimmerman. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)The Onion is well-known to people — but apparently not enough people — as a satirical site. Their Zimmerman story runs online alongside other eye-catchers such as "Gummi Bear Emerges From Digestive Tract Unharmed" and "Impatient Nation Demands Supreme Court Just Get To The Gay Stuff."

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Nothing takes the funny out of satire like an explanation, but clearly the Onion was comparing Zimmerman's longshot chance of being exonerated to a $37 million state lottery windfall. Perhaps the readers who bought it were still so steeped in disbelief at the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case that they lost touch with reality in the same way they feel Florida's justice system has.

MSN News: Odds of winning the lottery?

The Examiner pulled down the story, but not before the Tampa Star had posted a link to their report. Bloggers and social media users on Facebook and Twitter, where every piece of Web chum gets gobbled up, also swallowed the story whole. Some users were appalled by the news; others were appalled by the rampant gullibility.

Bing: 4 Zimmerman jurors speak out

It's not the first time and won't be the last that Onion articles have been picked up as real news by legit media outlets. The Zimmerman spoof marks at least the 18th time it's happened.

For crying out loud — check a source, people. They even call it The Onion. Doesn't something smell funny?

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Photo: George Zimmerman / Pool/Getty Images




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