The Le Devoir website was attacked overnight. The article said Charest died of a heart attack after being transported to a Montreal hospital.
A spokesperson for the premier quickly confirmed that Charest was in fact safe and sleeping soundly.
The story’s appearance also spread quickly via social media.
Charest was good-humoured about the hoax, joking with reporters that he “hurried to the mirror to see if I was still there,” when he was informed of the report in the wee hours Tuesday morning.
“As you can see, I’m in fine shape.”
Charest said his political death has been forewarned more than once. “But it’s the first time they’ve covered it from this angle,” he said.
Le Devoir editor-in-chief Josée Boileau said she was alerted at 1 a.m. ET about the hacking.
“We had to get on it quickly to pull this story down,” but it took time, Boileau said, because the hackers managed to block Le Devoir staff from the site for about an hour and a half.
The paper posted a notice early Tuesday morning offering apologies to readers and to Charest himself, saying it was looking into the incident.
No claim of responsibility
Nobody has stepped forward to claim responsibilty for the false posting.
Boileau said she called the premier’s office to apologize, an unpleasant call to make “in the middle of the night.”
The report on Le Devoir’s website spread quickly through social media. Several people tweeted they were shocked and saddened by the news.
One person suspected a website breach after noticing that the website of the hospital at the University of Montreal (CHUM) had posted nothing about the premier’s alleged death.
Hackers have attacked a number of government and business websites around the world in recent months.