Opinion: The city that fell for a hoax The fact it was hoodwinked into sisterhood with a fictional city means that Newark, N.J., is more trusting and innocent than one would think.

Opinion: The city that fell for a hoax

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Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark was gracious in January at a ceremony to make Newark sister cities with the Hindu nation of Kailasa. I pray that our relationship helps us to understand cultural, social and political development, he said in a joint appearance at City Hall, and improves the lives of everybody in both places. However, the city has had to recently - how do the pundits put it? - walk back those comments after it was reported that Kailasa does not exist. In fact, it's worse. Kailasa seems to be just a website and a scheme launched by Swami Nithyananda, a notorious fugitive from India who's been trying to evade authorities since being charged with child abduction and rape in 2019. Newark officials said in a statement that they now consider their sister cities proclamation groundless and void.

The revelation that Newark had joined hands with a nonexistent nation inspired hoots from the left and right. How can an entire city get catfished, Kal Penn, the actor who also worked for time in the Obama White House, said while hosting "The Daily Show." There must have been so many red flags, the biggest one being that anyone wanted to be sister cities with Newark. Mr. Penn is from Montclair, N.J., about 11 miles, but a world away, from Newark. Some people might say people from Montclair shouldn't throw stones at Newark especially since, unlike Kailasa, Newark is real. Somebody could get hurt. On the right, Jesse Watters on Fox News asked, no one at the city council in Newark thought, hey, I've never heard of this country, let me just do a Google search before we get these guys into a room and make them our sister city?

Kailasa's website calls itself home to an ancient, enlightened civilization, a great, cosmic, borderless Hindu nation. I can see why someone in the urban hurly-burly of Newark City Hall who may have searched Kailasa might read that line and think, sounds good. Newark City government may have earned a little ribbing for being naive, but I find something appealing in it, too. That Newark would say yes without thinking it through too much strikes me as earnest and courteous. It's the hoaxer who deserves jeers, not the hoaxed. And if Newark is still interested, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell them.


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