CNN removes video of reporter mistaking sex-toy banner for 'ISIS flag'

The ISIS flag spotted by CNN reporter Lucy Pawle during London Pride parade turns out to be a banner covered in dildos and butt plugs.

'ISIS flag' spotted by CNN reporter during London Pride parade turns out to be a banner covered in sex toys

All evidence of a live segment in which CNN analyzes a dildo-filled parody banner as the 'ISIS flag' has been removed from the broadcaster's online properties, though several mirrors of the video remain on YouTube. (YouTube/CNN)

CNN appears to have removed all evidence of reporter Lucy Pawle spotting what she described as "the ISIS flag" during the annual Pride London parade in the U.K. this weekend.

As VOX explains, a full six-and-a-half minutes of CNN's London Pride coverage on Saturday afternoon was dedicated to the flag in question, which appeared on-screen with the text "JUST IN: ISIS FLAG SPOTTED AT GAY PRIDE PARADE."

"I seem to be the only person to have spotted this and nobody seems to be raising any questions and pointing it out," said Pawle to anchor Suzanne Malveaux by phone during the segment, referring to photos she'd taken at the event.

"If you look at the flag closely, it's clearly not Arabic," she noted. "In fact it looks like it could be gobbledygook... but it's very distinctive, the ISIS flag."

As the reporter explained that neither police nor event organizers could give her more information about the "unnerving" flag, Twitter users weighed in live to tell her exactly what that "gobbledygook" on it was:

News of the flub spread quickly online, prompting a torrent of mocking news articles, blog posts and social media updates.

"It's easy to fool CNN these days," wrote Jordan Freiman for Death & Taxes. "Remember when Wolf Blitzer couldn't figure out balloon boy was a hoax even when balloon boy told Wolf right to his face? Good times. This ISIS flag debacle though is truly something to behold.​"

"Neither CNN nor the Islamic State have yet to comment on the segment," wrote The Huffington Post's Paul Vale. "Pawle is reportedly spending Saturday evening updating LinkedIn."

The most high-profile barb came Sunday evening, however, in the form of a John Oliver Rant.

"That's not the ISIS flag. That's a flag with dildos and butt plugs all over it," said Oliver during his HBO program, Last Week Tonight. "And yet, for more than seven spectacular minutes, CNN had it onscreen, even calling one of their 'terrorism experts' to try and figure out why ISIS might be marching with the gay community through London, which did seem surprising."

The terrorism expert he refers to is renowned security analyst Peter Bergen, who was brought into the segment after Pawle and suggested that perhaps the flag was some kind of parody.

"It would be a very strange place to show an ISIS flag, as one of ISIS's principal goals is to kill gays," he said.

Malveaux admitted that the flag could perhaps be a parody, but then asked "Could this be a warning? Could it be a sign? Could it be a flag of sorts of 'hey, you know what, this is our next location, this is our next attack?'" 

Bergen reiterated that it could just be someone's way of "putting a thumb in the eye of ISIS."

It appears as though CNN realized he was right shortly thereafter.

A video of the live segment and all mentions of it had been removed from CNN's online properties as of Sunday evening, though several mirrors of the video were uploaded to YouTube before this happened.

Still, the internet continues buzzing about the flub.

Screenshots from what appears to be Pawle's Twitter account have been circulating widely since Saturday, and while the original message seen in the image below has been deleted, @LucyPawle's reply to it remains intact.


Another interaction in which Pawle appears to learn about the existence of the flag on Twitter also remains live.

CNN has not publicly commented on the story.

According to Oliver, this is "probably because it would be too embarrassing to have a professional journalist say, 'I'm sorry. Despite working at CNN, it seems I don't know what a dildo looks like.'"