Animal lovers might recall watching footage late last summer of a pig swimming to the rescue of a baby goat whose hoof had become stuck at the bottom of a petting zoo pond.
The hero pig nudged the goat free and it swam ashore. The YouTube clip (posted below) was beyond cute and went viral after being shared on social media platforms and featured by most major morning shows and national news networks.
But what many may not know is that the clip was completely staged.
A crew of 20, including animal trainers, scuba divers and humane officers, helped produce the scene, which entailed placing the pig on an underwater track to ensure that it bumped into the goat.
That so many media outlets reported this event as real, in hindsight, seems to leave them with egg on their faces. (The Times mentions most of the networks, and the list is long.)
Said Kelly McBride, the senior faculty for ethics, reporting and writing at the Poynter Institute: “It really is embarrassing for the journalists who stumbled upon this and decided to promote it or share it with their audience. It’s almost a form of malpractice.”
Fielder described the vast media display as unexpected and said it was not the intention of those involved in the making of the video to attain such a lofty level of deceit. (The video was uploaded under a pseudonym with the simple description: “Pig saves goat whose foot was stuck underwater at petting zoo. Simply amazing.”)
Fielder said, “If we were trying to pull an elaborate hoax on the news, I think we could have pushed further. But we weren’t. We found it interesting that people were sharing it without us saying anything.”
While this wasn’t intended to be a Comedy Central hoax played on the media, crewmembers had signed nondisclosure agreements before the video was uploaded.
After it went viral, Fielder gave permission to at least two producers to air the footage, without explaining that the event was staged. But perhaps there should have been more asking if the networks were doing their jobs and reporting with the type of skepticism that is the essence of basic reporting.
McBride said any obligation by Comedy Central to come clean about the authenticity of the footage “pales in comparison to the obligation of journalists who vet information, because the journalists have made a promise to their audience that they will tell the truth.”
In “Nathan for You,” Fielder, 29, devises extravagant marketing stunts for small businesses. For the second episode, he visited a California petting zoo and decided to transform one of its animals into a star. That, of course, is a pig that swam erratically until a track was devised to direct it toward the goat, which turned out to really like the water, so much so that its agonized cries had to be dubbed in.
That, in hindsight, seems way more believable than a pig swimming to the rescue of a stranded goat.
More on GrindTV
VIDEO: Giant mantas, sea gypsy share dance in stunning film
VIDEO: Funny video shows man protecting car from huge hail in Argentina
VIDEO: A 1,700-mile, 113-day kayak journey called ‘Mirror River’ in 3 minutes