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The joke's on Rick Perry in Occupy Wall Street gaffe

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry quoted an excerpt from a satirical Globe and Mail article about Occupy Toronto protesters as if it were fact.

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An attempt by Rick Perry to poke fun of Occupy Wall Street protesters has backfired, generating further ridicule against the Republican presidential candidate and his floundering campaign.

While speaking in New Hampshire on Friday, the Texas Governor took a swipe at the Occupy movement by citing an outlandish quote he received from his son from an Occupy Toronto protester named "Jeremy." Mr. Perry chuckled after he paraphrased what "Jeremy" said:

"He said, 'Those bankers that we came to insult, they'd already been at work for two hours when we got here at 9 o'clock. And when we get ready to leave, um, you know, they're still in there working.' He said, 'I guess greed just makes you work hard.' "

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The trouble is "Jeremy" isn't real. He's the creation of Globe and Mail contributor Mark Schatzker, who wrote a satirical piece on the Toronto protest, published on Oct. 22.

Mr. Perry's gaffe is just one in a series of stumbles in his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. In a separate speech in New Hampshire last week, he was seen as rambling and erratic, causing some observers, including The Atlantic magazine, to posit that his strange behaviour was a result of pain medication or alcohol. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that early in his political career, Mr. Perry hosted friends, lawmakers and supporters at his family's hunting camp, known by a racial slur painted on a rock at its entrance.

Attempting to regain its footing amidst a weak showing in the latest Iowa poll, Mr. Perry's team launched a new ad this week, portraying him as "a doer, not a talker."

The blogosphere has since pounced on Mr. Perry's mix-up over The Globe and Mail satire piece, with news blogs, including Mediaite and The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire, pointing out the blunder.

In his piece, Mr. Schatzker had compiled the remarks of several fictitious Toronto protesters. For example, this statement was attributed to a 20-year-old "Tracy": "Looking back, I can't believe what we achieved in a few incredible days: government-funded health care, a well-regulated banking system, and a cap on corporate political donations. Our work is done."

Mr. Perry was not alone in mistaking comedy for reality, however. Several other blogs, such as Power Line and The American Spectator, have cited Mr. Schatzker's literally-too-good-to-be-true protesters as well.

Mr. Schatzker says he first discovered that bloggers critical of the Occupy movement were taking his characters' words at face value about a week ago. But with Mr. Perry joining them, his spoof piece has taken on a life of its own.

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"I'm giddy, agog, thrilled and delighted," Mr. Schatzker says. "I'm also existentially conscious of the fact that my greatest achievement is now behind me."

He adds that even if his article hadn't been labelled as satire, the absurdity of his characters' quotes should have tipped people off. A simple Google search would also have allowed them to easily fact check, he says.

"I suppose people wanted it to be true so much that they didn't bother."

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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