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Yesterday, Fox Business Network interviewed an "online shopper" named Peter Perweiler who turned out to be the marketing director for the National Retail Federation. The NRF says it organized a media event so reporters could interview "real" shoppers. Silicon Alley Insider got one explanation from the NRF. We got another, very different explanation, from Fox News.

An excerpt from a statement by NRF spokesman Scott Krugman:

During the event, it was clear to all who attended that NRF staff members were onsite and that some were shopping ... All consumers who were interviewed were approached directly by the media. It was neither hidden nor disguised to reporters that some shoppers at the event were employed by the National Retail Federation. In one instance, an NRF staff member specifically identified himself and the reporter chose to interview him regardless.

Ah, so the NRF says it was Fox who screwed up.

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But I heard from Fox reporter Rich Edson, who was covering the story. He said:

The NRF never disclosed the fact that their employees were going to be partaking in online shopping. Mr. Perweiler did not identify himself and I was unaware that he was with the NRF.

So NRF says that everyone knew what was going on and Fox says they were clueless. But here's the real travesty: Fox producers never even went looking for real shoppers; they were happy to send a reporter to a staged event, where shoppers were served up for them. Here's a copy of the pitch that the NRF sent to media organizations.

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