Ah, no. A very, very obviously fake Facebook post about a “fugitive Ed Sheeran lookalike” managed to dupe the team over at The Today Show, gifting us an excruciating few minutes of breakfast television.
It all began when newsreader Tracy Vo announced “a major manhunt underway” in the United States.
“The Ohio Fugitive Taskforce is hunting a conman who’s been taking cash from churches, fooling them into thinking he’s Ed Sheeran,” she said.
The hosts found it hilarious that the ‘conman’ in question looked nothing like Ed Sheeran. But like, the actual joke was that no such conman exists, and anything more than a cursory glance at the post would show it was satire.
The story came from satirical Facebook page Portsmouth Ohio Official, the type of page your nan might fall for. As if it even needs to be said, the page is not, in fact, official.
According to the post, local fugitive Ronnie Williams Jr. was wanted for fraud after he performed “Shape of You” at a church for $35 and a sandwich.
“If you have any information as to Ronnie’s whereabouts, message us immediately.”
Unfortunately, someone at The Today Show didn’t look too closely at the Portsmouth Ohio Official Facebook page, and the segment went to air.
“Look at this mugshot, so similar,” Vo said, laughing.
“Looks like he needs more than a sandwich,” added Karl Stefanovic.
That’s. The. Joke. Guys.
The hosts then wondered on-air if there was footage of the fugitive singing. “There’s stuff around,” Stefanovic said.
“If there is, we’ll find it,” Alex Cullen chimed in. They absolutely did not.
A bunch of other news stations in the US also ran the story before covering their tracks, but this seems to be the only instance of the cringe being exported to our shores.
However, it’s not the first time journos have fallen for the Facebook page’s hoaxes.
One of its previous posts claiming a man had been impersonating country artist Travis Tritt also made headlines. The page even claims they’ve duped Fox News in the past.
It wasn’t until the Today Show segment was shared on social media that the rest of us were able to kindly inform them of their gullibility.
The clips have since been nixed from social media, and the hosts revisited the story later in the morning.
“It turns out it was a fake news story all along, we did fall for this one,” they said.
“Still a good laugh.”