On 29 August 2016, the fake news site Babylon Bee published an article reporting that pastor Joel Osteen had apologized for his use of the word “Jesus” during a sermon:
Calling the incident “an unfortunate choice of words” and “a momentary lapse in judgment,” pastor Joel Osteen issued a public apology Monday morning for using the Lord’s name in his Sunday morning sermon.
The mishap reportedly occurred near the end of Osteen’s message, as he had attempted to say “God wants you to be victorious,” but apparently fumbled his words and instead used the phrase “Jesus wants you to be victorious.”
The effect was instantaneous, as bewildered Lakewood Church members looked at one another in a state of mixed confusion and shock. Some church members had never heard the Lord’s name used at all, while others were angered that Osteen would use the word “Jesus” in an obviously inappropriate setting like a church service.
“We all started Googling this strange word ‘Jesus,’” one church member told reporters. “He seems like a pretty cool guy, but yeah—there’s a time and a place, and this was clearly not it.”
Despite the implausibility of the claim, some mistook the article for an accurate and recent news report. But readers who scrolled down to the bottom of the page might have noticed a disclaimer displayed across the Babylon Bee web site:
The Babylon Bee is Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire.
Although Babylon Bee items are typically recognized as satirical, the Joel Osteen apology article wasn’t the first to be mistaken for real news. Other satire pieces that shared that distinction included reports that imprisoned abortion provider Kermit Gosnell was a Democratic National Convention (DNC) speaker, and that the Elevation Church had introduced a baptismal waterslide.