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British politician clears himself of involvement in Twittergate 2009

By Matthew Shaer / June 26, 2009

Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband leaves after attending the weekly cabinet meeting at number 10 Downing Street in London on June 9. Yesterday, some media organizations attributed a crass tweet about Michael Jackson to Miliband. His office has since said the whole thing was a spoof.

Stephen Hird/Reuters

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"Never has one soared so high and yet dived so low," read the tweet heard round the world. "RIP Michael."

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It's an ugly sentiment, and one attributed early this morning to the Twitter account of David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary. The problem: David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary, doesn't have a Twitter account. Never has. Now, he probably never will. The whole thing was a spoof, cooked up by the tricksters behind a fake David Miliband feed.

Not that you can blame the press. The fake David Miliband's account, which lists, as of this afternoon, 2,098 followers, looks a little bit like the real thing. "Father, husband and Member of Parliament for South Shields and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs," reads the bio information – and all of that information is correct.

A number of outlets picked up the story, including the Times and the Guardian. Early this morning, journalist Ian Dunt reported that, "The foreign secretary was one of the first people to tweet on the death of Michael Jackson last night." But a few hours ago, many publications had hastily added corrections to their websites.

The London Evening Standard, a widely-distributed paper that also disseminated the Miliband story, has removed altogether any mention of the tweet from its article on the reaction to the death of Michael Jackson. Meanwhile, England's Foreign and Commonwealth Office has offered a tweet of their own: "David Miliband does NOT have a Twitter account."

But let's get to the real question: did these journalists take a look through earlier tweets? If they had, they might have encountered gems like this:

"Charlie Wilson's War is pretty amazing, probably shouldn't watch it in a slow week though!" the fake David Miliband tweeted on May 31.

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Our Twitter feed will always be for real. We promise.

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