Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: preferred in a (fake) poll to President Obama. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Fars News Agency, described as “Iran’s leading independent news agency,” apparently was the latest in a proud tradition to mistake an Onion story for the real deal. The Onion’s signature deadpan description of a poll finding that the “overwhelming majority of rural white Americans said they would rather vote for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than U.S. President Barack Obama” was lost on the Iranian news service, which ran a story of its own about the poll.

Interestingly, the Fars story is a word-for-word reprint of the Onion piece, so it seems that the agency might be guilty of ... unoriginality as well as gullibility.

The line between total absurdity and outrageous-but-true can be a fine one, but most savvy readers would have been tipped off by the Onion’s over-the-top treatment: the poll identified “77 percent of rural Caucasian voters … would much rather go to a baseball game or have a beer with Ahmadinejad, a man who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and has had numerous political prisoners executed, than spend time with Obama.”

And if that hadn’t sent up flags, this line should have been a dead giveaway: “According to the same Gallup poll, 60 percent of rural whites said they at least respected that Ahmadinejad doesn’t try to hide the fact that he’s Muslim.”

(Update: Fars has taken down the story and apologized, sorta....)