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Breaking news coverage is challenging: Updates are flying in from everywhere; official sources don’t communicate everything they know; competition is brisk; and there are pranksters, as MSNBC learned earlier this summer upon the downing of MH17. Someone claiming to have been a U.S. military official got on the network’s live coverage and claimed that a burst from the derriere of Howard Stern was responsible for the plane crash.

Yesterday morning on CNN, just before 9 a.m., CNN, cable news’s dean of breaking news, succumbed to a similar stunt. In a segment on the California earthquake, CNN’s Christi Paul conducted an interview with someone she identified as a spokesperson for the San Francisco police department. “Because of the early morning … most people were at their homes when it happened. And what we believe is that this was a rumbling from Howard Stern’s buttcrack.”

Paul recovered nicely, immediately diagnosing the prank: “All right, obviously that is not who we expected it was to be. We apologize for that so early in the morning. But I do want to keep on this because the fact of the matter is this is a serious situation, so we don’t need any jokes going on right now.” Such fast on-air thinking contrasts with the MSNBC screwup, in which host Krystal Ball apparently missed the prankster’s Howard Stern-fart joke and moved forward with the interview.

The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi recently profiled the prolific prankster whose opus bears resemblance to this unscripted moment on CNN.

(H/T Huffington Post)

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Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.