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Posted at 10:17 PM ET, 04/01/2012

April Fools’ prank on Forbes.com runs afoul, claiming Mitt Romney ceded to Rick Santorum

The Web can be full of pranks and pitfalls any day of the year, but the temptation for mischief on April Fools’ Day can lead to trouble, even for news organizations. This seems to be what happened with Forbes.com on Sunday when it declared Mitt Romney had exited the Republican presidential race.
An April Fools’ prank at Forbes went awry when a blog claimed Mitt Romney, right, had stepped down and backed former senator Rick Santorum as the GOP presidential nominee. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Contributor Len Burman wrote and published a blog on the news organization’s Web site headlined “Romney drops out of race, endorses Santorum,” about 10:40 Sunday morning. Editors pulled it down about a half-hour later, but not before the “news” spread on Twitter and claimed the top spot on Google News, albeit briefly.

Burman, an economics professor at Syracuse University and Forbes blogger for 10 months, says his piece was intended as obvious satire.

“It’s kind of baffling,” he said in a phone interview. “It was April Fools’ Day, and it was completely implausible. Nobody in the party would have said those things.”

Those “things” included faux quotes from the former Massachusetts governor saying that he has “no chance” to win the general election in December and that a Santorum candidacy would be in the “best interest of the party.”

Burman continued with Romney saying: “I don’t want to wait until 2020 to get my party back. I’m all about efficiency. Let’s get our butts kicked now and move on.”

News reports have Romney inching ever close to securing the GOP presidential nomination.

Defending his piece, Burman says it was intended as satire, to call out “some real issues with the right wing of the Republican Party. I was basically just trying to make a point about that.”

Shortly after the post was taken down, Burman published an explanation, saying Forbes pulled the entry down, “because of an unannounced ban on April Fool’s Day humor.” Editors have since taken down that post as well.

Burman says he writes, edits and publishes articles to the Forbes Web site, which are then back-read by editors. This was the first time he can remember editors taking down his content.

The editor responsible for removing Burman’s blogs, Executive Producer for Content Development Coates Bateman, did not immediately respond to messages left at his office.

Forbes.com doesn’t have a clear distinction among articles, blogs and columns, but to make his satirical intentions clear, Burman says he put the date — April 1, 2012 — at the bottom of the article.

Up to this point, he says, “I really thought the blog was my blog and as long as I didn’t do anything grossly irresponsible — and I don’t consider this to be in that category — I could do what I wanted with it.”

While his piece lives on in a personal blog he started this morning, Burman says he has learned an important lesson about the Web and social media.

“It’s the way the Internet works. The headline gets transmitted and nothing else,” he says. “I was hoping it would go viral, and I guess it has.”

More on April Fools’ Day:

8-bit Google Maps: Google’s most fun April Fools’ Day prank ever?

Warby Barker: April Fools’ eyewear for dogs

April Fool’s Day: The history of pranks (Video)

By Lauren Abdel-Razzaq  |  10:17 PM ET, 04/01/2012

 
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