First a couple of Twitter users got it wrong. Then, at 2:51 p.m. June 1, the Web site pjmedia.com posted a blog item with the title, “EPA Using Spy Drones to Fly Over Midwestern Farms.” It provided a link to a report on the Fox News Web site — which discussed the lawmakers’ letter but didn’t actually mention drones.
That same afternoon, the falsehood spread to television. On a Fox News Channel “ensemble opinion show” called “The Five,” Fox contributor Bob Beckel said, “They are drones, they are flying overhead.” “No, they’re not,” said fellow panelist Dana Perino, who served as White House press secretary under President George W. Bush. “They’re taking pictures.”
“No, no, no. They’re drones,” Beckel said. Over the next three days, the story appeared on blogs, was tweeted and re-tweeted. It had all the makings of a great rumor. It combined two ideas that many people already believed to be true: that domestic use of drone aircraft was soon to increase, and that President Obama has used environmentalism as a cover for government overreach.