‘Fresno Bee’ Admits Falling for Reader Goldfish Hoax

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By: Joe Strupp

Just call it the Great Goldfish Hoax. Perpetrated on The Fresno (Calif.) Bee.

In a story today, the paper revealed it had been hoodwinked by a pair of local residents into believing a fat, blind goldfish, lost in its owner’s pool, reappeared on someone else’s lawn.

“Journalists are trained to be skeptical, but at some point we have to take people at their word,” Betsy Lumbye, executive editor and senior vice president of The Bee, said in the story. “We’re disappointed that these ladies weren’t honest, and disappointed that we didn’t catch the hoax.”

Those ladies were Lori Igasan and Bernadette Planting. Planting claimed she had lost the pet in March. Igasan said she had found him, even placing an ad in the paper seeking the owner.

David Letterman reportedly picked up on the odd ad, noting it on his show, while the Bee did a story, complete with a video report, about the unusual fish find in April.

The women completed the hoax earlier this week when they informed the Bee about the reunion. A Wednesday story reported the false tale.

“It was not our intention to hurt anybody,” Igasan told the paper. She said the ad was “part joke, part genuine effort to unload a fish she no longer wanted.” She told the paper she received about 150 telephone calls.

“People just thought it was off-the-wall hilarious,” Igasan said.

The paper said the truth came out after several readers called to say the women have been longtime friends. “I was buying the story until I saw their names,” Tom Pope, one of several readers who recognized them from the karaoke circuit, told the paper. “This town is too small to get away with anything like that.”

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