The conservative Christian satire website The Babylon Bee was again forced to defend itself amid accusations from secular media that it's spreading “misinformation.”
CNN reporter Donnie O’Sullivan took issue with The Babylon Bee on Sunday, tweeting his disapproval with a satire piece poking fun at prominent Democrat reactions to the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
The satire piece in question is titled “Democrats Call For Flags To Be Flown At Half-Mast To Grieve Death Of Soleimani.” In a Twitter thread, O’Sullivan commented on a tweet explaining that The Babylon Bee article had topped 500,000 shares on social media.
O’Sullivan, who reports on “disinformation,” politics and technology, stressed that it's the “same number of engagements” as the top New York Times and CNN articles over the past week.
Although it's widely known in Christian circles that The Babylon Bee is a satire site akin to The Onion, O’Sullivan wondered how many users who share the articles on social media know that it's satire.
“A lot of people sharing this ‘satirical’ story on Facebook don't know it is satire,” O’Sullivan argued. “Having a disclaimer buried somewhere on your site that says it’s ‘satire’ seems like a good way to get around a lot of the changes Facebook has made to reduce the spread of clickbait and misinformation.”
Sullivan pointed to some of the comments made by Facebook users who shared the link to The Babylon Bee article, including one user who wrote: “I wish this was a joke.” Sullivan quoted another user who wrote, “I wish this was satire.”
Babylon Bee founder Adam Ford shot back at O’Sullivan in a Twitter thread Monday. He criticized Ford for the fact that he has shared numerous articles by the satire site The Onion on his social media page.
“A CNN reporter is taking shots at the Bee because our articles get shared a lot and some people think they're real (which will always happen with satire),” Ford wrote. “After thinking ‘how adorable,’ I thought, ‘well surely this guy has chirped at the Onion for the same thing.’”
“As it turns out, Mr. O'Sullivan HAS tweeted about the Onion,” Ford added. “But it looks like he's quite the fan!”
On Tuesday, The Babylon Bee published an article titled “CNN Attacks Babylon Bee: ‘The Internet Is Only Big Enough for One Fake News Site.’”
The satire article includes a made-up quote from Brian Stelter, host of the CNN show “Reliable Sources.”
“They're obviously amateurs over there at The Bee," reads the fake quote attributed to Stelter. "A lot of times, their reporting comes true. If you're gonna do fake news, do it right — 100% fake, guaranteed, 24/7. They really should learn from the pros over here at CNN."
This is not the first time that The Babylon Bee has received heat from the left-leaning media.
Last summer, Ford hit back after the so-called fact-checking website Snopes did a fact-check on a Babylon Bee article titled "Georgia Lawmaker Claims Chick-Fil-A Employee Told Her To Go Back To Her Country, Later Clarifies He Actually Said 'My Pleasure.'"
The article poked fun at a Georgia Democrat lawmaker who accused a white man at a grocery store of racially berating her and telling her “go back where you came from,” a claim that man denied.
The Snopes article claimed that The Babylon Bee made “an apparent attempt to maximize the online indignation” surrounding the lawmaker’s claims and the white man’s denial.
“We're not sure if fanning the flames of controversy and muddying the details of a news story classify an article as ‘satire,’” the Snopes article read, adding that the Bee has managed to “fool readers with its brand of satire in the past.”
In a Twitter thread, Ford took issue with Snopes' claim that Babylon Bee was trying to “maximize the online indignation” and that it published a “fictionalized version of the story.”
“That's certainly an interesting way of saying we satirized an absurd real-life event,” Ford wrote at the time. “You know, that thing that all satirical outlets do.”
Snopes then fired back at suggestions that its fact-checking of satire articles is unnecessary.
In August, Snopes published a study titled “Too Many People Think Satirical News Is Real.” The study was written by R. Kelly Garrett, professor of communication at Ohio State University, and his colleagues. The study focuses on a survey of over 800 U.S. adults.
“We discovered that many of the false stories weren’t the kind that were trying to intentionally deceive their readers; they actually came from satirical sites, and many people seemed to believe them,” the article reads.
However, the research promoted by Snopes was denounced by Babylon Bee’s Editor-in-Chief Kyle Mann. Mann criticized the way researchers paraphrased the satirical story claims when asking their questions to respondents.
"That survey @snopes shared is horrible. Did they seriously paraphrase Bee stories and ask people if they thought they were true? That's an awful way to figure out what percentage of people will believe satire," Mann tweeted.
"This is totally different from how people actually engage with our stories, where the over-the-top content on the site and social feeds, the site name, our freakin' tagline, a goofy photoshop, are pretty darn big clues that its satire. ... Do people get fooled? Sure, sometimes. But this survey is a horrible way to prove that."