MOSCOW - Russian media outlets on Thursday quoted U.S. Republican party presidential candidate Donald Trump as harshly criticizing the International Paralympic Committee’s decision to ban Russian athletes from the 2016 Paralympics, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro starting on September 7.
The problem is that these comments attributed to Trump appear to have been made up.
Citing the British Broadcasting Corporation, several dozen Russian newspapers, TV channels and radio stations quoted Trump as saying that the decision to bar Russian athletes from the Paralympics was made by “complete idiots who are the real disabled people.”
Trump was further quoted as saying: “How else to explain the fact that athletes from Russia, where there were scandals involving doping, were at the Olympic games in Rio, but that all the Russian Paralympic athletes, who were not connected with doping scandals, will not be there? To work off their own uselessness on disabled people from Russia, strong of body and spirit – is this not mean and low?”
Had Donald Trump made such a statement, it would have been big news in his presidential campaign. So, VOA’s Russian Service asked the Interfax news agency, which had also quoted the putative Trump comment and attributed it to the BBC, for comment. VOA also asked the BBC about it.
‘Released by mistake’
Shortly after being contacted by VOA, Interfax withdrew its report on the alleged Trump quote, saying it had been “released by mistake” and apologizing to subscribers.
A short time later, BBC’s press service, in response to VOA’s inquiry, confirmed that it had not published any report claiming to quote Donald Trump criticizing those who banned Russian athletes from participating in the upcoming Paralympics in Rio.
An Internet search found that the first reference to the alleged BBC report appeared on August 23 on a website which, in the past, had posted news reports that turned out to be fictional. Still, the Trump “quote” quickly spread across the Russian Internet after it was reported Thursday by the popular Russian sports portal Sovsport.
In addition to major outlets, the alleged Trump quote was reported by the Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta and by Parlamentskaya Gazeta, which is published by the Russian parliament. The former attributed the quote to “News reports,” the latter – to the BBC.
The quote was welcomed by Russian netizens with comments like "Bravo, Trump!", "Well done, Trump!", "I like Trump more and more, and on this issue he is totally great!", and even "a word of truth from America!"
After Interfax withdrew its report, Russian media outlets, one by one, followed suite, telling their readers they had been the victims of a fraud perpetrated by “internet pranksters.”
Still, some outlets left the quote standing, among them the government’s Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Later Thursday evening, it did publish a separate report acknowledging that the story “could have been fake.” Parlamentskaya Gazeta also left the story up but without any immediate corrections or disclaimers.