By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN – Bold Nebraska played an April Fools’ prank on the press, but it didn’t go over too well with some reporters and the governor.
Monday, the anti-oil-pipeline group sent out a news release that began, “Today, Gov. Dave Heineman sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging the federal government to deny the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, currently proposed to be routed over the Ogallala Aquifer.”
That seemed unlikely on its face, given Heineman has been supportive of the Keystone XL pipeline ever since he called a special legislative session in 2011 to deal with the original route’s crossing of Nebraska’s fragile Sandhills. Since the pipeline company, TransCanada, agreed to move the pipeline out of the Sandhills, Heineman has had little heartburn over it.
The prank was that Bold Nebraska reprinted the letter Heineman wrote to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Aug. 31, 2011, in which he said the pipeline shouldn’t cross “a substantial portion of the Ogallala Aquifer.” (A discerning eye would’ve noticed Clinton is no longer the secretary of state.)
The fake release was sent by Bold Nebraska Communications Director Mary Anne Andrei to dozens of media outlets, including the Washington Post, Huffington Post and Associated Press. About five minutes after the news release was sent to dozens of reporters, Bold Nebraska leader Jane Kleeb Tweeted, “If you press are wondering what the heck, that’s how we all felt when Heineman flip flopped and supported the pipeline.”
KOLN-TV was not amused, and it did a story in which Dave Roberts said, “It was supposed to be an April Fools’ joke but instead Bold Nebraska undermined its own credibility.”
“The only thing real is the damage it did to the group’s reputation,” Roberts said.
Station reporter Kim Eiten continued, “We couldn’t find anyone who found it funny. No satire, no humor in fact, the event they referenced actually happened in 2011, before the governor voiced his full support for the pipeline.”
KHAS-TV also reported on the prank, saying Bold Nebraska “attempted to use humor to make a point” about the pipeline.
Although it doesn’t appear anyone fell for the prank and reported a false story, many reporters did inquire about it with the governor’s office, including several national outlets.
Vonn Jones, assistant news director at KETV in Omaha, had already asked the governor’s office about the release before determining it was a joke. He then emailed other reporters who received the release, alerting them that it was “the group’s attempt at humor.”
“While we recognize it is April Fool’s Day, we also take news releases quite seriously, especially when there is no other sign of parody or humor,” he wrote. “KETV makes note that Ms. Andrei has instead undermined Bold Nebraska’s future credibility with us.”
A spokeswoman for the governor, Jen Rae Hein, responded saying, “This is a childish act on behalf of Bold Nebraska that clearly illustrates the immaturity of Jane Kleeb and her group. This April Fools’, the joke is on them.”
Later Monday, Bold Nebraska sent an explanation to the media saying it intended to use humor to bring attention to a serious matter.
“We did not alter his words to Secretary Clinton and President Obama, we simply re-sent Gov. Heineman’s own words to make a serious point on what is normally a funny day,” they wrote.
Kleeb told Nebraska Watchdog that if Bold sends out a news release next April Fools’ Day, “we will add a disclaimer at the end.”
Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.