The Sacramento Dispatch had a breaking "bombshell" on its website the other day: President Trump and Vladimir Putin had been seen hobnobbing at a Swiss resort before Election Day. Which would've been quite alarming, considering the recent hubbub around Trump's alleged Russia ties—except, as the Washington Post points out, the Dispatch isn't a real paper. And neither are a handful of other "news" websites concocted as a promotional ploy for 20th Century Fox's A Cure for Wellness, its new Gore Verbinski mystery-horror flick that opens Friday. The marketing scheme backfired, however, fooling many on social media (including some well-known tweeters) and leading 20th Century Fox to issue a statement calling the idea "inappropriate on every level."
BuzzFeed on Monday first made the big reveal about the fakery, which included a slew of phony anti-Trump stories, such as the president pulling government support for California after the Oroville Dam flood because of its pro-immigrant stance. Regency Enterprises, one of the film's production companies, tried to explain in a statement, noting the movie was "about a 'fake' cure that makes people sicker"—ostensibly justifying the whole fake-news approach. (Some of the stories prodded readers to react by tweeting their thoughts along with #acureforwellness.) Marketing and ad experts don't agree it was a wise move: Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, tells the New York Times the tactic is "perverse" and "counterproductive." 20th Century Fox now agrees, noting in its statement, "In this case, we got it wrong." (Read more fake news stories.)