In July 2001 an e-mail began to circulate claiming that the Lovenstein Institute, a think-tank based in Scranton, Pennsylvania, had conducted research into the IQ of all the Presidents of the past 50 years and had concluded that George W. Bush ranked at the bottom, with an IQ of only 91. (Click here
to read the text of the email.)
The claim that G.W. Bush had the lowest IQ of any recent U.S. President attracted the attention of the international media. The London Guardian
broke the story on July 19, and on August 26 Garry Trudeau featured the report in his Doonesbury comic strip. Unfortunately both Trudeau and the Guardian
had fallen for a hoax.
The e-mail had originated as a joke on a website called linkydinky.com
. In its original version, the joke was quite obvious. For instance, Linkydinky.com cited the Pennsylvania Court Observer as its source for the news, noting that this newspaper only had a circlation of five readers. Furthermore, it described Dr. Lovenstein as "living in a mobile home in Scranton, Pennsylvania."
However, as the joke made its way through people's inboxes, these textual clues were stripped away, until in the final version of the email it sounded as if the Lovenstein Institute was an actual research organization (which it is not).
Once they learned of their mistake, both Trudeau and the Guardian