PR Fail: Iran Sends a Monkey Into Space, Brings a Different Monkey Back to Earth

Iran’s space program is kind of like North Korea’s search for mythical horse-like creatures: Officials say it’s moving along, and you don’t really believe them, but you’re still a little concerned because what if unicorns are real? How much of the world have we all been missing?

Today we’d like to offer some advice to all despotic, murderous dictators: If you want to be the news, you need to get the news right the first time.

Iran’s oppressive Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (think “I’m a dinner jacket”) regime managed to score a bit of media attention last week by proclaiming that it had launched a monkey into space. This was a major event for a country with very few friends that desperately wants to demonstrate its own power to the rest of the world. Over the weekend, the administration’s PR wing triumphantly announced the safe return of said monkey to Earth.

Welcome to the 20th century, Iran!

But wait: the Times of London observes that the two photos provided by Iran’s media relations people most definitely do not depict the same monkey. The little fella on the right has a mole that really gives it away, but come on.

Senior officials at Iran’s space agency (because that is a legitimate job description) performed a little damage control operation today, acknowledging that the two monkeys were not one and the same but denying anything like a cover-up. The “controversy,” they said, stemmed from confusion about which monkey was which. The one in Saturday’s picture was simply another one of the five trained for space travel. And, of course, these media relations experts insisted that the original monkey is still in tip-top shape while refusing to release photographic evidence.

We know Iran’s leadership is a deadly, tyrannical organization hated by most of its own citizens, but surely they can do better than this. Oh, and if you’re itching to make a lame joke about this story, you’re too late–somebody beat you to it.