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TV station duped into reporting Mossad agent ‘Eli Copter’ was pilot on doomed Iranian prez Raisi’s flight

A talking head for an Israeli TV network in France had oeuf on his face after mistakenly reporting an internet meme about Ebrahim Raisi’s deadly helicopter crash as actual news.

One of the many dark jokes that sling-shotted around social media in the wake of the crash is that an agent for Mossad — Israel’s spy agency — was actually piloting the doomed whirly-bird that went down, killing the Iranian president and everyone on board.

That phantom Mossad agent’s name? “Eli Copter.”

Screengrab of a TV news broadcast showing a man wearing glasses and wearing a suit.Political analyst Daniel Haik quoted a telegram channel during a live i24 Francais broadcast, saying, “The pilot was a Mossad agent with the name ‘Eli Copter,’” a fictitious name being spread on the internet as a joke. i24

Unfortunately, the groan-worthy play on words sailed over the head of veteran political analyst Daniel Haik, who quoted a Telegram channel during a live i24 Francais broadcast, saying, “The pilot was a Mossad agent with the name ‘Eli Copter,’ it’s not currently clear whether this is true or not, but that’s the rumor going around.”

Particularly cringe-inducing is that the “Eli Copter” joke also works in French, in which the word for helicopter is the near homophonic hélicoptère.

Haik’s slip-up birthed a slew of new memes taking the joke even further, one X poster using AI to create a Mossad ID card bearing the fictitious agent’s name — complete with photograph — along with the text “A new national hero.”

The gallows humor gag even reached the darkest corners of the internet, apparently even tricking members of Al Qassem Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, who posted references to Eli Copter in a Telegram channel, screenshots posted on X by Israeli-American journalist Emily Schrader show.

The incident brought to mind another time news anchors caught up in the race to report the latest details of a disaster fell for a prank based on made-up pilots’ names.

In July 2013, after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed during its final approach into San Francisco International Airport, killing three passengers, local station KTVU fell for a prank in which they were told the pilots on the flight had been identified as “Captain Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk” and “Bang Ding Ow.”

A man in a turban staring out the window of a helicopter.Within hours of news that the helicopter carrying Raisi and other high-ranking state officials had crashed, dark jokes about the incident had already begun circulating online. IRINN/AFP via Getty Images

The prank, deemed offensive, led to the firing of three news anchors.

There is no indication of any foul play in Friday’s fiery helicopter crash. However that hasn’t stopped Iran from pointing fingers.

Former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad blamed the US for embargoes that restrict aviation parts from flowing into Iran, which has been on the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list for since 1984.

“One of the main culprits for yesterday’s tragedy is the United States , which … embargoed the sale of aircraft and aviation parts to Iran and does not allow the people of Iran to enjoy good aviation facilities,” according to an interview he gave on state TV.

The crashed helicopter was reportedly a US-made Bell 212, a version of the famed Huey choppers.

Javad claimed that Raisi’s death would be added to the list of crimes America has perpetrated against Iran.