The growing tsunami of information demands that we each look for and find the facts before we become complicit in the spread of fake news.This is why I refer to Nicholas Kristof as the “Wikipedia of Journalists.” I’ve been flooded with notices about his recent column featuring the story of Sherry Johnson, an 11-year old girl forced to marry her rapist in Florida.
Kristof’s May 26, 2017 New York Time’s column lays out Sherry’s story in the present, as though it took place this year, when in fact the incident took place decades ago. (Sherry Johnson, now in her 40’s wrote a book in 2013 about her experience.) He then goes on to say that states must lower their legal marriage age. However, Florida’s current legal marriage age is 18, which Kristof never mentions.
Of course, the column was immediately picked up by news outlets around the world. One of them was “Opposition Report,” which ran Kristof’s piece along with a staged photograph of a young girl dressed as a bride sitting next to a far older man in tux, all implying this was Sherry Johnson.
The photograph used by “Opposition Report” was unrelated to Johnson and originated with a prank or “social experiment” published to YouTube in 2016 by prankster Coby Persin. He set up a faux union between a 65-year-old man and 12-year-old girl in the most public of places, New York City’s Times Square, to see how people would react.
Then, the web went nuts with Kristof’s column and the photograph.