PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Raelian clone claim earns serious copy

WASHINGTON: They provided no proof. No pictures, no DNA tests, not even a name. But an obscure cult's dubious claim that it had delivered history's first cloned human caught the world's attention and changed the national conversation - not to mention the congressional agenda - heading into 2003.

WASHINGTON: They provided no proof. No pictures, no DNA tests, not even a name. But an obscure cult's dubious claim that it had delivered history's first cloned human caught the world's attention and changed the national conversation - not to mention the congressional agenda - heading into 2003.

The Raelians, a religious sect that believes life on Earth began when extra-terrestrials cloned themselves 25,000 years ago, announced two days after Christmas that they had delivered the first cloned human baby, nicknamed "Eve." They offered not a shred of evidence for their suspiciously synergistic claim, but that didn't bother the media. Nearly every news outlet in the world carried the story - along with explanations of the previously unknown group's origins and beliefs. Everywhere you looked, you saw Claude Vorilhon, founder of the Raelian movement, and Brigitte Boisselier, scientific director of Clonaid, a company formed by the Raelians. If you didn't know what a Raelian was on Thursday - and let's face it, you didn't - you knew practically everything about them by Monday. Soon, politicians were on the air debating the issue. Now, as a new Congress prepares for its inaugural session, cloning legislation that had been in limbo is back on the front burner. That's the kind of bully-pulpit work even a President has to admire. But the big question remains: Is it true? Did a bizarre little cult achieve what scientists believed would be impossible for years? The world was still awaiting an answer as PRWeek went to press. But whether Eve is the real thing or not barely matters at this point. Simply by dropping the right announcement into the news cycle at the right time, the Raelians have made themselves famous and placed their pet issue first in the minds of people and governments all over the word. If it is a hoax, then it may very well be the most coverage for the least money spent ever. And if it isn't a hoax, well, we may all soon be Raelians.

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