Ready? Here’s what was fake on the Internet this week:
1. Harvard Business School professor/Internet villain Ben Edelman did not send racist e-mails to a Chinese restaurant. It makes sense that this particular rumor gained traction, however, given Edelman’s other dubious online behavior. The professor originally came to the Internet’s attention earlier this week over a series of e-mails he sent Sichuan Garden in Boston, threatening legal action over a mere $4 (!) he believed the restaurant owed him.
The Boston Globe later reported that he had followed those e-mails up with an overtly racist message, submitted through Sichuan Garden’s online contact form. While Edelman has confessed to sending the threatening e-mails, however — even publishing an apology on his website — he hasn’t copped to the racist one. Since contact forms like the one on Sichuan Garden’s Web site allow the user to input any e-mail address, whether or not it is his, Edelman seems to have been framed; the Boston Globe has since retracted its story. (None of this changes the fact, of course, that Edelman is still a documented jerk.)
2. Home Depot Christmas trees (probably) do not kill cats. The Facebook page for an Ontario cat rescue sounded the proverbial alarms on Wednesday after hearing that one of its recently adopted kittens had been poisoned by a chemical sprayed on Home Depot’s fake Christmas trees. In reality, while Home Depot’s still “aggressively investigating” the incident, it would seem that Forever Home Cat Rescue issued its (very viral, and now-deleted) warning a little early. There’s nothing actually tying the kitten’s death to the tree, besides the family’s observation that it chewed on a few needles. And Home Depot has said both that this is an isolated incident, and that the chemical it sprays on its faux trees is “a hypoallergenic pet-friendly substance.” You probably shouldn’t let your pet eat PVC, as a rule, but there’s no need to panic — at least not without more evidence.
3. Illegal loggers in the Amazon did not cut down the “world’s oldest tree.” More than a quarter of a million people have shared this story from World News Daily Report, a hoax-news site whose stories — we repeat! — are always fake. According to the particular faux-article in question, loggers on the Peruvian and Brazilian border accidentally hacked down a “giant Samauma tree” that was 5,800 years old. For the record, the world’s oldest living tree is only 5,062 years old, and it’s somewhere in eastern California. Researchers have kept its exact location a secret.
4. Michael Brown did not brutally assault and rob an old man on camera. It’s unclear who started this particular rumor, exactly, but a low-resolution video that claims to show Brown beating someone up … actually does not. The video’s proven popular on Facebook and YouTube, where it’s been re-uploaded dozens of times — often with captions like “this is the Michael Brown they don’t want you to see.” But as more skeptical commenters have pointed out, the man in the video is clearly shorter and less heavy than Brown, and you never see a clear shot of his face. Snopes claims the video actually shows an incident in Dallas, Tex., a place where Brown never lived. “It blows my mind how quickly people believe [stuff],” one woman wrote. “You don’t see ‘his’ face the entire time.”
5. Malia Obama is not pregnant. In case this “article’s” source didn’t tip you off — it’s on the infamous, unfunny hoax site Empirenews.net — the absurd “quotes” from President Obama, first lady Michelle and Malia, their 16-year-old daughter, should. (“Hello, I’m the president’s daughter,” Empire News has Malia saying, at one point. “This doesn’t ruin my plans for a future at all.”) Alas, the idiotic thing has still been shared more than 120,000 times, further proof that people never read past the headline — or, that when it comes to political mockery, nothing is off limits.
6. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton didn’t die. The 25-year-old athlete did, however, suffer a serious two-car crash, which flipped his truck over and left him with two fractures in his lower back. The seriousness of the crash seemed to lead some Twitter users to jump to conclusions, as many a tweeter concluded that Newton was dead. He actually fared pretty well, all things considered: He climbed out of the vehicle himself, and left the hospital two days ago in “high spirits.”
7. McDonald’s is still serving overweight customers. The idea that McDonald’s would begin refusing to serve some customers is absurd, on its face: for reasons economic, legal and practical, it makes literally zero sense. That did not, however, stop more than a quarter of a million people from sharing this farce on Daily Buzz Live, the site that previously brought you “news” of the first Ice Bucket Challenge death. It is, like all things on Daily Buzz, 100 percent fake.
Did we miss any other notable fake stuff this week? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org — or stay tuned until next week, because surely some more shenanigans will go down in the meantime.