After Russia dominated Team U.S.A. at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships this week (May 12), Moscow could be expected to relish the moment. The 6-1 thrashing -- handed down in front of a raucous pro-Russia crowd at Belarus's Minsk Arena -- was payback for the embarrassing loss suffered to the U.S. on home ice during the Sochi Olympics.
But while Team Russia quickly moved on, Russian media chose to rub it in by inventing a controversy by publishing -- as if it were real -- a fake news story citing a real U.S. official.
After the preliminary-round game, various mainstream media outlets reported that Washington had bitterly protested the loss:
"State Department: U.S.A. Disagrees With Results Of Hockey Match..."
"State Department: U.S.A. Disagrees With Results Of Hockey Match And Talks Sanctions..."
"Russia Will Pay Dearly For Its Hockey Team's Imperial Ambitions!"
"Dirty Puck Carousel"
The articles -- and many others published in mainstream and also social media -- center on bitter quotes directly attributed to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki after the hockey loss.
Many of the quotes mirror comments made by U.S. officials and Psaki herself amid rising tensions between Washington and Moscow over the ongoing Ukraine crisis.
There is this reference to various suggestions by Washington that Russia cannot intervene in a neighboring country in this day and era:
"This game had nothing to do with real hockey," Psaki is quoted as saying at a press briefing. "In the 21st century we cannot play hockey as if it is the 20th."
Another "Psaki comment" draws on an actual statement the spokeswoman made during a May 12 press briefing in which she condemned the disputed referendum in eastern Ukraine, saying "its methodology was highly suspect with reports of carousel voting," among other things.
"The imperial ambitions of the Russian national team displayed during the game demonstrate the same methods seen in the worst years of the Soviet Union -- a dirty puck carousel set up by the Russian team in front of the U.S. net, and democratic pucks blocked from their own net -- and are an attempt to reverse the status quo and are a threat to European security."
When asked by a reporter what "a puck carousel" was, "Psaki" replied that she did not know what a carousel was, but that it was written in the text and that it was something terrible and incompatible with human values.
The alleged response was similar to Psaki's actual response during her May 12 briefing in which she was asked what "carousel voting" was. Her reply -- that she was unfamiliar with the term and would "check and see what our team meant specifically by that term" -- was ridiculed in the Russian media.
In yet another allusion to comments made in Washington, Psaki was quoted as saying that U.S. President Barack Obama had expressed his concern about the hockey game's result:
"Russia is not only on the wrong side of history, but on the wrong side of geography, physics, and physical education."
And finally, "Psaki" blasted Russian hockey star Alexander Ovechkin for shaving his beard ahead of the World Championships in an alleged protest against Austrian transvestite Conchita Wurst's recent Eurovision victory.
"It is a protest against European values, against free Europe! In the 21st century you cannot just pick up and shave your beard if you don't like something! This is unacceptable. The beard should return immediately!"
This LiveLeak link provides a rough English-language translation of Psaki's "statement."
What stands out is that while "Vzglyad" and "Komsomolskaya pravda" described "Dirty Puck Carousel" as a parody, others were not nearly so forthcoming. Sports.ru and nabat.in simply published Psaki's "quotes" as fact with no mention that they might be satirical.
The State Department and Psaki did not respond to written requests for comment on the quotes being attributed to Obama and the State Department spokeswoman.
But for the record, Psaki never said anything about the U.S.-Russia result in the daily press briefing she held the day after the match .
The closest thing to any official U.S. comment on the game came from a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul.
On his Twitter feed, McFaul was pointedly asked after the conclusion of the Russia-U.S. game: "So how did you like the hockey?"
To which McFaul replied:
-- Michael Scollon