Janeane from Des Moines: The mockumentary that ensnared Mitt Romney

An actress with Iowa roots returns to meet, greet, and deceive the 2012 presidential candidates before the Iowa caucuses

Actress Jane Edith Wilson attends the Janeane From Des Moines premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7: Wilson stars in the new mockumentary, which features unwittin
(Image credit: Vanessa Galle/Getty Images)

The video: There's a good chance you've never heard of actress Jane Edith Wilson, despite roles on Curb Your Enthusiasm, ER, and Seinfeld, plus current TV ads for Tide detergent and Hyundai. But you've heard of the people who make cameos in her new faux documentary, Janeane from Des Moines: Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and other Republican presidential contenders who trekked through Iowa before the GOP caucuses. Filmmaker Grace Lee follows Wilson as the fictional conservative Janeane as she talks her way into a 10-minute meeting with Bachmann, a tearful hug with Romney (watch a news clip below), and various other interactions with GOP candidates.

The reaction: The response at the Toronto International Film Festival was mixed, with some audiences booing Wilson's deception — "This film makes Michael Moore look subtle," wrote one reviewer at Toronto Film Scene. Others found the film, which opens this week, more respectful and less predictable than similar mockumentaries. Either way, this is "yet one more reason to fact check everything in stories," says NPR's Russell Lewis on Twitter. "Yes, even 'regular folks,'" and even if the reporter is "on a tight deadline." I, for one, was taken in by "Janeane," says Kathie Obradovich at The Des Moines Register. She was one of a half-dozen people I talked to, and she was "articulate enough to make it into a blog post" I wrote. But even if I'd checked her photo ID, Janeane is close enough to Jane that I probably would still have accepted her story. I'm disappointed that she fooled me, and eroded the trust that allows the Iowa caucuses to work. But "Janeane wasn't the only one out abusing the trust of candidates and Iowa voters. Political operatives do the same thing." And every time they do, candidates get a little more guarded. Watch Janeane pour out her heart to Romney, on ABC's World News Tonight:

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