Parents Believe Onion Article, Freak Out Accordingly

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Some argue that the best kind of satire, like acting, is the kind that seems the most realistic. If that’s the case, then The Onion deserves an Academy Award.

The farcical weekly publication’s Oct. 26 story “Study Finds Every Style of Parenting Produces Disturbed, Miserable Adults” jokingly cited the California Parenting Institute (CPI) as having conducted research on the topic, which resulted in a media nightmare for the unwitting company. It’s not the Congress Hostage hoax, but it did make some people just as concerned.

Robin Bowen, executive director of CPI, was first alerted to the faux-story by her daughter Thursday morning. “She came in and woke me up and said, ‘Mom, you are never going to believe this,’” Bowen told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Bowen, who is familiar with The Onion‘s hijinks, wasn’t fooled, but that didn’t go for all of CPI’s employees.

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“We even had parent educators who work here say, ‘When did we do a study?’” Wendy Hilberman, director of marketing and development for CPI, told the Press Democrat.

Hilberman said the story created press interest in addition to the widespread concern. “For instance, we had a lady, she basically called and said she was writing a book or something and she really wanted a copy of the research and it supported some of her thoughts,” Hilberman said.

The institute offers parenting instruction, coordinates a local child abuse council and provides children’s counseling services, among other programs.

In a press release issued Friday, CPI touted its good works while dismissing any connection with The Onion story. “It’s obviously not OK to list our agency, even in satire,” Hilberman said.

LIST: Top 10 Freakishly Specific Lists from The Onion‘s A.V. Club