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“Ham Is Not A Toy,” But It Could Be A Parody

In Lewiston, Maine, a middle school student ignited a firestorm by placing a bag that contained a “ham steak” near where some Muslims were sitting:

Police are investigating as a possible hate crime an incident in which a ham steak was placed in a bag on a lunch table where a group of Somali students were sitting.
Superintendent Leon Levesque said the incident is being treated seriously and police are investigating. The center for the Prevention of Hate Violence is working with the school to devise a response plan.

Someone tell Barack Obama: another kind of “violence”!
A fuller account from the local newspaper in Lewiston, Maine is here. The most detailed account of all, however, appears to be this one, from a site I’d never heard of called “Associated Content, the People’s Media Company.” It appeared yesterday, and includes the facts from previous news stories, plus some embellishments. Like this quote from the school superintendent:

These children have got to learn that ham is not a toy, and that there are consequences for being nonchalant about where you put your sandwich.

The article also purports to quote a Somali student who was involved in the ham incident (in this telling, the ham steak becomes a sandwich):

“That ham sandwich in a bag where we couldn’t even see might as well have been that pig’s head,” said one of the traumatized Somali students, “and that cafeteria might as well have been the most religious building for Muslims in the state of Maine.”

It includes inflammatory comments by Stephen Wessler, the executive director of the Center for Prevention of Hate Violence, who is also quoted in the other news stories. Such as:

If people think insulting Muslims with ham is okay, more degrading acts will follow. The Jews had to go through the same thing when the Nazis would force-feed them bacon; do we really want our schools to become concentration camps?

It is pretty obvious that this last account is a parody. What makes this interesting is that Fox News apparently fell for it.
On Fox & Friends this morning, this story was covered, with some hilarity: there was a picture of a ham sandwich, and the superintendent’s alleged statement that “Ham is not a toy” was featured. I was only listening with one ear, but it clearly seemed to be reported straight, obviously in reliance on the Associated Content story. So a Fox fact checker didn’t check far enough.
Actually, if the Fox staff had done a little more investigation, they would have found that the same Associated Content “reporter” also wrote about the Target bacon controversy:

Said Target spokeswoman Paula Greear in an e-mail to The Associated Press, “We are confident that this is a reasonable solution for our guests and team members. If not, then whatever. We’re all sick of bending over backwards for these people, anyway. Now that they’re in America they’re allowed to complain without being beheaded, and they seem to be making up for lost time.”
Greear also reported that fortunately the problem was only a local one, and that there was not an issue in most stores in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, or nationwide. “They’re pretty easy to brainwash, that’s how we get them to work for us for 30 years, so we expect this sort of behavior from a small group of them every now and then.” Said Greear.

Admittedly, we live in an era in which it is often difficult to distinguish fact from parody. Still, it’s reasonable to expect a higher level of fact-checking, even from a soft news show like Fox & Friends.
It’s too bad, too, as the actual story is interesting in its own right.
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