On the 11th of October, 2001, various news sites (most notably, Yahoo's news section, with a picture taken from Reuters) started running a set of photographs of Osama Bin Laden supporters expressing their support in Bangladesh. Most of the pictures included a large poster filled with images of Bin Laden.

On closer inspection, the poster also included a tiny image of Bert, from Sesame Street, peeking over Bin Laden's left shoulder. It was unequivocally Bert, and several different pictures included the poster on different, official news sites, which meant that it was almost certain that the poster itself had been doctored, not the pictures.

Nobody knows for sure why Bert was there, but he was - there's no doubt about that. The most popular and obvious theory is that the Taliban supporters had downloaded the image from the internet without realising that it had been doctored - perhaps not realising the significance of Bert, as Sesame Street is not shown in Bangladesh (although it is shown in neighbouring India). Some photographs taken at other rallies showed a similar (presumably original) poster without Bert, suggesting that the supporters had mistaken a subtly doctored imitation for this original.

Quick off the mark, Wired ran a story, which you can find here:

And there is another good overview here:

Subsequently, many of the news sites that ran the picture cropped Bert off the edge, presumably because his presence was distracting from the story which the news media wanted to project, i.e. the Bin Laden supporters in Bangladesh. This nonetheless remains a fascinating example of the media losing control of a news story.

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