Over the years, we have published an April Fool’s story on Capitol Hill Blue. One of our favorites was the one saying the Republican Party had bought this political website and planned to turn it into a GOP propaganda machine. Some people actually believed it.
On this still developing new year, we will not publish an April Fool’s story claiming Donald Trump really did win the November presidential election last year. Trump was a four-year-long April Fool’s joke but it wasn’t a funny one. The Jan. 6 riot that breached the U.S. Capitol, shut down Congress for a few hours, and killed a Capitol Hill Blue proved how close Trump came to destroying America and its democratic system of government.
We prefer April Fool’s jokes that get your attention and pull just how dumb our government can be. On April 1, I was on the Metro subway heading into Washington, DC, for the daily trip to my office and turned the page of the morning Washington Post to find a full-page ad announcing the U.S. Liberty Bell had been sold to Taco Bell to “reduce the country’s debt’ and would become the “Taco Liberty Bell.”
The ad said the national monument would be part of a new, large Taco Bell restaurant in Philadelphia and replicas would be in each of the company’s fast-food outlets around the country, along with educational material about liberty.
Thousands of angry callers to the Taco Bell headquarters and the National Park Service complained loudly and often obscenely. Members of Congress took the floor in both the House and Senate to decry the move and demanded it be rescinded and investigated.
Over at the Bill Clinton White House, press secretary Mike McCurry remembered it was April Fool’s Day and when reporters fired off angry questions, he said President Clinton thought it was a “great idea” and said the government would also sell the Lincon Memorial to Ford Motor Company and rename it the “Lincoln-Mercury Memorial.”
Taco Bell answered the uproar with a press release at noon that led with “April Fool” and declared it a hoax that originated with a suggestion by the mother of then-CEO John Martin.
Taco Bell spent about $300,000 on full-page ads in The Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal. Business publications said the stunt generated about $25 million of free advertising for the company and more than $1 million in increases sales at the fast-food outlets. That was 1996 dollars. Today it would be about $40.8 million in free ads and $1.6 million in increased sales.
One tabloid report in New York said the real-estate developer Trump believed the ad was true and ordered his staff to investigate buying the Statue of Liberty so he could call it “The Trump Statue of Liberty.”
“With that, I could become president,” he is reported to have said. It would be 21 years before he became a four-year-long joke and nightmare for America, elected by a minority of the voters. If such a story was published, we could not find it on Lexus/Nexus or on the Internet.
On April 1 of each year, wife Amy and I buy some soft tacos from Taco Bell to celebrate the April Fool’s joke of 1996.
Entrepreneur Magazine named the Taco Bell stunt as one of the “Top 10 Successful Marketing Stunts. ” The Museum of Hoaxes ranks it No. 7 of its “Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time.”
In these times, April Fool’s Day seems tame to the daily hoaxes perpetrated on us by lying president Donald Trump, Q’Anon conspiracy claims, and propaganda “news’ sites like Fox, Breitbart, and others. Sean Hannity is a 24/7 practitioner. So was Rush Limbaugh. He’s dead now but too many other liars like him dominate the airwaves and media.
Their “jokes” are threats to our nation and democracy. Their hoaxes are too real and too dangerous.
That, sadly, is no April Fool’s joke.
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