Spoof Site Mocks Coal Company With Promise Of Asthma Inhalers For Kids

May 10, 2011

The website CoalCares.org is about as slick as they come.

But did you really think, even for a second, that Peabody Energy, a big-time producer of coal, would really provide kid-friendly asthma inhalers to children who live within 200 miles of a coal-fired power plant?

A press release attributed to Peabody this morning announced just such an initiative, which purportedly aims to ease the stigma for kids who need asthma inhalers.

A Web page on the site contains a gallery of designer inhalers, supposedly available free to kids with a doctor's prescription, that feature pictures of Dora the Explorer, Elmo and "The Bieber," among others.

Within minutes of receiving my email asking about the site's provenance, Meg Gallagher, a spokeswoman for the real Peabody, responded:

The site is in fact a hoax.

It took a little bit longer to get a comment from the folks on the press release announcing the site. A spokeswoman who said her name is Cindy Stonem, working for Coal Cares communications, stuck to her talking points.

When told repeatedly that Peabody denied sponsoring the site and asked, also repeatedly, who is behind it, she answered finally:

I don't know who you talked to at the company, but this is going really well today.

She then blurted out, "Bieber is the favorite."

Smells like another project by the Yes Men, a group of PR pranksters on a social mission. We'll find out before too much longer, I'll bet.

In the meantime, you can check out this 2004 interview by Fresh Air with Yes Man Mike Bonanno.

Oh, and if you'd like more information on the rising prevalence of asthma — nearly 1 in 12 Americans has the respiratory condition — see this Shots post. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.