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Hoaxes & Myths

Defamation

The malicious injuring of an individual's or businesses' reputation by (oral) slander or (written) libel.

Click on the title to see the complete hoax text, a description, brief history, reporting date in a new browser window. In many cases, the hoax description site may also include reactions from hoax subjects, an extensive history, and provide links to additional analysis and interviews.

 

Kentucky Fried Hoax - In this hoax Kentucy Fried Chicken has supposedly changed it's name to "KFC" because it no longer uses real ground-pecking chickens. This is a hoax. As in almost every case, snopes.com offers the history of this hoax and links to other sources.

Needle in McDonald's Ball Pit - This is the sad story about Kevin Archer dying from a needle stick in a McDonald's play pit. This is a hoax. The Houston Chronicle has weighed in on the hoax...

To read the Houston Chronicle's response to this chain letter, use the link below instead of the link provided at the CIAC site - this is a more direct link. If you do use the CIAC link (which takes you to the Chronicle's Archive page), navigate to the last item in the "About Archives" column.

http://www.chron.com/content/chronicle/columnists/galloway/2000/1/9/

Read "Needle in the Ballpit" at About.com's Urban Legends & Folklore.

The CDC provides a general discussion regarding needle sticks.

Satanic Procter & Gamble Hoax - This recent variant of a 20 year old letter claims that the President of the Procter & Gamble Company admitted in a television interview with talk show host Sally Jesse Raphael that he was a member of the Church of Satan, and that "...a large portion of his profits from Procter and Gamble products goes to support this satanic church". This is a hoax. Per CIAC the Sally Jesse Raphael talk show has denied that this interview ever took place, although it's link to SJR's site is broken. The following link however, will connect you with page 3 of SJR's FAQ's pages where she denies this rumor in answer to a viewer's question. The discussion is near the bottom (8th question from the bottom) of FAQ's page 3. Since the Sally Jesse Raphael show is now off the air, and the site will probably be pulled off the web... the text is also quoted below.

About.com's Urban Legends and Folklore section, in an article entitled "Trademark of the Beast", addresses an earlier variant of this chain letter - back when P&G's President supposedly made his admission on the Phil Donohue Show.

Snopes.com has a lengthy discussion and seemingly complete history of this hoax, and touches on the P&G corporate logo controversy by citing other news articles and interviews.

Direct quote from the SJR site:

Sally listens:
Rumor has it that the president of Procter and Gamble appeared on your show and said that he was associated with the Church of Satan. I would appreciate more information if you have any, perhaps a tape of the show if available. If this is a hoax, please let me know.
Sally Sez:
The rumor going around that the president of Procter and Gamble appeared on The Sally Show and announced he was a member of the church of Satan is not true. This a hoax that's been going around in one form or another for the past 20 years...only originally, it concerned the Phil Donahue Show...then evolved to the Jenny Jones Show...and now it's evolved to The Sally Show. The president of Procter and Gamble has NEVER appeared on The Sally Show...NEVER. Nor has any other person in authority at P&G. Any president of a multi-national corporation (including the head of P&G or Liz Claiborne) would be immediately fired by the board of directors if he or she did such a thing. Also, profits from any such corporation go to the stockholders...not a church designated by the president. Do not send money in to get a transcript. We do not provide transcripts or video tapes of our shows to the public. Frankly, this thing has gotten out of hand. If we had this man on our show, and he had said what it's alleged he said, we would have scored a broadcasting scoop and would have trumpeted it to all the newspapers. It would have been to the show's advantage. But there was no scoop, and there were no headlines.

Satanists Liz Claiborne & Ray Kroc - These rumors are similar to the P&G hoax, but are not addressed on the CIAC site (that's why there's no link). One 1990 hoax claims that Liz Claiborne admitted on an episode of Oprah that she gives 40% of the profits from her clothing line to the Church of Satan. In an earlier hoax, McDonald's chief, the late Ray Kroc, supposedly admitted that he tithed the Church of Satan. Both of these rumors are false. In a discussion of P&G, snopes.com does address these rumors. These are hoaxes.

Roaches in Taco Bell Tacos Hoax - This hoax claims that a girl ate a Taco Bell soft taco containing a pregnant cock roach. The roach eggs supposedly got into her saliva glands and incubated. Nothing about this hoax is real. This is a hoax.

Outback Steakhouse Urine Hoax - This letter claims that a woman who repeatedly sent her steak back at a Spartanburg (SC?) Outback Steakhouse, became gravely ill because, as doctors later diagnosed, at least 3 people had urinated on her food. This is a hoax. While this and other gross things are regularly done to food in restaurants, especially food sent back... this particular incident didn't happen. Urine by itself won't make you instantly sick, unless perhaps you know about it and still eat the food.

Wal Mart Lack of Patriotism Rant - This isn't really a hoax... it's just a complete and utter lack of understanding of how American business, and bugets, work. This is not true. While investigating this circulated rant, snopes.com found information that suggests that the author has indeed misunderstood Wal Mart's policy, and concluded that this claim is "false".

Boycott Tommy Hilfiger Hoax - This letter claims that Tommy Hilfiger said publically that he didn't want certain named minorities to buy his clothes. Mr Hilfiger supposedly confirmed this fact on an episode of Oprah when confronted by the outspoken talk-show host. This is a hoax. On her 1/11/99 show, Oprah Winfrey disputed this claim, and stated that Mr Hilfiger had never even been a guest. The direct quote is below, just in case the link above expires:

"...Oprah put to rest a rumor about designer Tommy Hilfiger. For the record, the rumored event that has circulated on the Internet and by word-of-mouth never happened. Mr. Hilfiger has never appeared on the show. In fact, Oprah has never even met him..."

McDonald's Beef Warning - This very mis-guided letter claims that McDonalds is importing pesticide- and hormone-laced beef from South America for use in it's U.S. restaurants. This is a hoax. In actuality McDonalds exports beef from the U.S. to it's South American restaurants. This hoax has caused a big uproar in the industry, thus there are lots of links to follow at the CIAC site.

Richard Gere & The Gerbil (page 1) - This pervasive hoax claims that actor Richard Gere, supposedly following the lead of gay men everywhere, is involved in the homo-erotic, and very cruel, practice of "Gerbilling" (aka "Gerbil-stuffing"). This is a hoax. In reality, this claim of sexual perversion and animal cruelty is NOT practiced by any group of people, gay or otherwise, nor did Richard Gere even think of doing this.

About.com has an extensive discussion of this hoax running 4 pages long, here are the last 3 pages (page 1 is above): Page 2 of 4, page 3 of 4, page 4 of 4.

About.com also provides links to these other sources: The Gerbilling department of AFU & Urban Legend's Archive, Sex columnist Dan Savage's take on the gerbil vs gay myth, an interesting discussion of things people DO put in dark places at the Rectal Foreign Bodies home page (index), RFO's "Everything But the Gerbil", "No Gerbils!" by Dan Savage, "Is it True What They Say About Gerbils?" by Cecil 'The Straight Dope' Adams, "The Rectal Rodent", and two more hoaxes to consider... "Gerbilling Mishap Injures Two", and "Crustacean Love" a female version using a lobster instead of a gerbil.

Note that About.com tends to have a lot of "pop-up" and "pop-behind" windows advertising one thing or the other, which as we all know can be a bit annoying.

New Pepsi Can Design Nixes God - This hoax claims that a new design for the Pepsi can includes an image of the Empire State Building and the Pledge of Allegiance minus the words "under God". All Christians are asked to be offended and show their disgust by boycotting Pepsi. This is a hoax. This hoax twists a mostly real event apparently in an attempt to damage Pepsi's reputation. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, for a limited time the Dr Pepper soft drink company, not at all related to Pepsi or it's parent company Pepsico, marketed a new can design that had an image of the Empire State Building and the words "One Nation... Indivisible" - hardly a blatant slap in the face of Christianity. Since this was a limited marketing campaign, all cans were off store shelves by February 2002. Snopes.com has a great discussion of this hoax.

Febreze Warning - This warning claims that zinc chloride in Procter & Gamble's Febreze air and fabric deodorizer is very toxic to house pets, and dogs and birds have either become very sick or died. This is a hoax. New York's ASPCA, the Veterinary Medical Association, and the Humane Society of the U.S. have weighed in on this subject.

AOL Blocking Legitimate Bulk Mail - This VERY long widely disseminated email, titled "Don't Listen to AOL, This is The Truth", makes a variety of claims, most of which are unfounded or untrue.

Claim: The majority of AOL members do NOT agree with AOL's active blocking of millions of unsolicited email (aka "spam").

Rebuttal: It is the AOL members that are actively forcing AOL to find new ways to block unsolicited email.

Claim: AOL solicits members from other service providers, and encourages members to sign up for their own accounts rather than sharing an account.

Many online services attempt to lure customers from other service providers. Earthlink and Juno are two of the biggest users of this accepted business tactic. Attempting to increase paid accounts by encouraging members to establish their own accounts instead of sharing is not illegal or immoral... just good business.

Claim: It is unethecal for AOL to block bulk emails and label them as "spam" sent by "scammers" and "thieves".

It's hard to tell exactly how much of the unsolicited email come from legitimate businesses, but it can be said that an increasing number of solicitations are nothing more than scams. It is not unethical for AOL to attempt to protect their members.

Claim: People receiving unsolicited email can have their address removed from mailing lists.

Although some solicitors include legitimate mailing list removal links, a majority of unsolicited emailers can verify that your email address is legitimate by your click on the removal link.

Claim: Phone companies don't block unsolicited telemarketing calls.

Although phone companies don't block telemarketers, they do allow phone customers to block all telemarketers. Additionally there are other tools that are available (i.e. Caller ID, Call Block Rejection, etc) to block calls from telemarketers.

Claim: AOL blocks traffic on the AOL browser.

Unfounded. While the AOL browser isn't perfect, it's code isn't written to block a user's access to web sites unless parental controls have been involked. AOL's parental controls are set by AOL users themselves.

Claim: Legitimate advertisers are forced to use "dirty tactics" to get their messages out.

One could argue that spammers do feel that they are forced to use unconventional means to have their spam delivered... but one could also argue that AOL members have the right to not receive unsolicited email.

Tactics used by spammers include displaying the addressee's address as the sender, leaving the "From" field blank, masking the header information, employing resenders to mask the true origination of the spam, using misleading words and phrases in the subject field, and changing the background color to hide the header information.

Claim: The author of this incredibly long email was somehow blocked by corporate giants from putting this information on a web site where it could be more easily viewed and commented on.

One could bet that the author is into conspiracy theories. One surf around the Internet proves that with the right hosting service an advertiser, legitimate or not, can sell anything on the Internet. Unless a web site "owner" isn't paying the monthly service charge, is breaching a contract with the service provider, or the site is found to be engaged in illegal activities, his/her web site is allowed to say or do almost anything. Sites with content that is illegal in the U.S. are forced to use foreign service providers - which should be of no surprise. It can also be legitimately stated however that AOL may have a more restrictive contract with AOL-hosted web sites.

 

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