The internet has a beautiful knack for finding notes of levity in even the darkest of situations. If it can trick a fool or two into believing the unbelievable, bringing humor to moments of crisis, that’s even better.
A viral hoax of a photoshopped shark swimming in a flooded highway hit by the devastating Hurricane Harvey made waves Monday afternoon, when countless Twitter users and folks scrolling through their Instagram feeds were shocked by the apparent force of Mother Nature. By Monday night, the internet had dispelled the myth that a live shark was floating amongst driving cars escaping the storm, even discovering the hoax was the same one used in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; but that development went unnoticed by the good people at Fox News.
Jesse Watters, co-host of The Five and a regular Fox News personality, was convinced there were “some really weird biblical things” happening after the category four hurricane made landfall in parts of Texas Friday night, before tapering off to a tropical storm and leaving a wake of flooding and destruction in its path. That included the fake swimming shark, among other unconfirmed reports spreading across the web.
Watch Jesse Watters get duped by the fake shark photo on national television pic.twitter.com/sbDLuavvzS
— Eric Koch (@EricDKoch) August 29, 2017
“I’ve seen some amazing things out there just watching television,” Watters said. “Alligators on people’s back door steps. I saw a shark on a highway swimming in the water.”
“Like ‘Sharknado!'” co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle exclaimed, referring to the apocalyptic comedy in which sharks swim through flooded city streets. “Like ‘Sharknado,'” Watters echoed.
“I saw a hawk sitting in someone’s taxi cab,” he continued. “You know, there’s some really weird biblical things that are going on down there in Houston. I can’t imagine how I would be experiencing that as a guy from the northeast but I think Texas has it figured out.”
Boy we've been seeing that same shark since Katrina 😂 https://t.co/kqTeO8JSAH
— Melo Jones (@_Funthera) August 29, 2017
Fox News may not have been trying to exaggerate the seriousness of the ordeal millions of Texans are enduring this week as a reported 30,000 residents flock to local shelters, but Watters’ comments do have the ability to mislead the public. For a program that bills itself as a news show, to not take the extra step in verifying its claims to millions of live viewers is troubling to say the least, and adds to the anti-media sentiment President Donald Trump casually employs when he rails against outlets like CNN and the New York Times as “fake news.”
Fox News, on the other hand, gets a presidential pardon—even though it’s been one of the biggest proponents of fake news and misinformation in Trump’s America. The network began early, suggesting Hillary Clinton was in poor health after losing to Trump in the 2016 presidential election, analyzing her “coughing fit” during a commencement speech at her alma mater. It’s also helped push a fake news story about a staffer of the Democratic National Committee who was killed in a botched robbery, claiming he may have been leaking information damaging to the party before being murdered by the deep state.
Despite all this, Fox News remains the most-watched cable news outlet across the United States, according to the latest quarterly 2017 ratings.