A month ago, Huffington Post promoted an article on its home page that led to
this garishly bad YouTube video
by the McCain Girls. Trailhead steered clear at the time—if we wanted to hear appalling, off-key crooning we’d go to a Kristy Lee Cook concert—for fear that we’d provoke a lawsuit from aggrieved readers if we linked to it. When it originally published a link to the video, HuffPost
didn’t include any details
about the video—who made it, how they found out about it, or why they thought it was remotely amusing.
Today, HuffPost offered answers to all three of those questions. The site promoted an article on their home page titled “McCain Girls Mystery Solved… See Who Made The Music Video.” Inside, there’s a paragraph of original text where HuffPost reveals the creator is comedy site 23/6 —a site that they co-produce with IAC/InterActiveCorp. (They didn’t give a direct answer to why thought the video was chuckle-worthy, but we can assume their funny bones were numbed by corporate synergy.)
Huffington Post never mentions that they have a stake in 23/6’s success—only that the video and the singing trio “are the brain children of comedy site 236.com.” The piece then goes on to quote today’s
New York Times
that outs the video as a parody. The
New York Times
reporter says only that 23/6 is “owned by an affiliate of
that parodies the news.” No mention of the Huffington Post. Mario Ruiz, a HuffPost
spokesman confirmed to me that 23/6 is a “joint production between IAC and the Huffington Post” and that “the
failed to mention HuffPost.” The Huffington Post also failed to mention the Huffington Post.
For the site to write that its subsidiary created the video, but hide the fact that 23/6 is its subsidiary violates journalistic ethics 101. It’s only compounded because the video wouldn’t have gone viral without the Huffington Post’s help in the first place. Nor would it have exploded in popularity if people knew it was a joke from the outset. The Washington Post writes that the clip languished on YouTube for a week without much fanfare until Huffington picked it up. A month later, it has more than 1.7 million views. Huffington has every right to advertise its own product— Slate does it with SlateV every day—but it needs to make clear where the content is coming from. (Huffington does this on a regular basis with 23/6’s written content.)
I asked HuffPost’s spokesman whether they had purposefully omitted a line about their stake in 23/6’s videos. He has yet to respond.