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The Onion ‘Oracle’: Mar-a-Lago ‘Nuclear Briefcase from Lost And Found’

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In March 2017, The Onion published an article titled "Mar-A-Lago Assistant Manager Wondering If Anyone Coming To Collect Nuclear Briefcase From Lost And Found."

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On August 12 2022, an Imgur account shared a screenshot from Twitter, purportedly featuring a prophetic article from The Onion in 2017, describing nuclear material improperly stored at Mar-a-Lago:

The account tweeted, “little known fact: the onion is staffed by wizards who deliver messages from the one true oracle.” Text on the image read:

Mar-A-Lago Assistant Manager Wondering If Anyone Coming To Collect Nuclear Briefcase From Lost And Found

3/27/17 9:30AM

The tweet was referencing ongoing news reports about the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s August 8 2022 execution of a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, a Florida property owned by former United States President Donald Trump. On August 12 2022, several large news organizations reported that agents sought (among other things) classified material pertaining to nuclear weapons:

The FBI sought to locate classified documents related to nuclear weapons, among other items, when agents searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, this week [of August 8 2022], people familiar with the investigation told The Washington Post.

The people did not offer additional details to the Post about “what type of information the agents were seeking” or whether any such documents were recovered, according to the paper.

The revelation adds key context to the Justice Department’s extraordinary decision to search the home of a former president.

As CNN previously reported, the criminal investigation started with concerns about missing documents raised by the National Archives, which made a criminal referral to the Justice Department upon discovering highly sensitive documents among the materials retrieved from Mar-a-Lago in January [2021].

This was far from the first Onion claim that mirrored or “predicted” future events in its satire. In July 2021, a decade-old article about the United States leaving Afghanistan in the middle of the night recirculated, and after the May 2022 Uvalde school shooting, the outlet’s template mass shooting page (“‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens”) was compared with significant public horror to straightforward reporting by the New York Times.

As for The Onion’s Mar-a-Lago “nuclear” page in 2017, a Fark.com user submitted an August 12 2022 link titled “The Onion: still prophetic.” Other Twitter accounts referenced the piece, with one quipping:

The site’s March 2017 piece had the headline, “Mar-A-Lago Assistant Manager Wondering If Anyone Coming To Collect Nuclear Briefcase From Lost And Found.” It began:

PALM BEACH, FL—Noting that it had already been there for almost two weeks, Mar-a-Lago assistant manager Chris Mahoney reportedly wondered Monday if anyone was coming to collect the nuclear briefcase from the club’s lost-and-found.

A circulating August 12 2022 Twitter screenshot alluded to the existence of a The Onion article about a mishandled “nuclear briefcase,” one of a few then-recent instances where the outlet’s humor later reflected real news. The article was also shared to Fark.com, and it was was originally published by The Onion on March 27 2017.