In 2016, a Texas man named Jordan Brown accused Whole Foods in Austin of decorating a cake with an offensive anti-gay slur. Brown later sued Whole Foods, accusing the company of anti-LGBT activity as evident from the supposed cake slur.
This story immediately went viral. Major news outlets published the story accusing Whole Foods in Austin of bigotry against homosexual individuals. The media led the country to believe that hate against homosexuals is alive and well in America.
Within hours, the entire story began to fall apart.
According to CNN, Whole Foods released the following statement after an internal investigation: “Our team member wrote ‘Love Wins’ at the top of the cake as requested by the guest, and that’s exactly how the cake was packaged and sold at the store. Our team members do not accept or design bakery orders that include language or images that are offensive.”
As it turned out, the whole situation was a hoax. Brown purchased the cake with “Love Wins” on it, then later added the slur below those words after leaving the store. Whole Foods ended up countersuing Brown as a result of the false accusation.
In January 2019, actor Jussie Smollett called 911 from downtown Chicago and reported that two men had beat him up, lodged offensive slurs at him and tied a noose around his neck before fleeing. The Chicago Police Department swarmed the scene, and national news coverage began. Supposedly, it was another example of how America suffers from rampant hate crimes.
Within hours, the story began to fall apart.
It was too late, though; America was convinced that this story was true.
After an extensive investigation by law enforcement, Smollett was indicted with multiple counts for perpetrating the hoax by colluding with two friends to plan the fake assault. Smollett went as far as driving around downtown Chicago and instructing his friends on what they should say to him and how they should assault him. Smollett was recently convicted on five of the six counts he faced.
In June 2020, news broke that Bubba Wallace, a well-known NASCAR driver, was the victim of a hate crime. Wallace’s team reported to law enforcement that they found a noose hanging from the garage door near Wallace’s car at the Talladega Superspeedway. National news outlets rushed in, sympathies poured out and even the FBI sent over a dozen agents to investigate this crime.
Within hours, the story began to crumble.
Photos began to circulate online showing the same “noose” on other garage doors at Talladega. The FBI finally concluded that this was yet again another hoax. The “noose” ended up being just a pull rope that is commonly used to lift garage doors up and down when no motorized door exists. If you’ve ever been to a mechanic shop with garage bays, then you’ve likely seen this type of pull rope.
The common occurrence in these three stories is not that they’re all fake and completely made up, but dozens, if not hundreds, of news outlets published these reports before verifying the information underpinning the accusations. We’re at a point in society where many news outlets and journalists no longer do investigative journalism. Instead, they rush to publish sensational stories that drive national conversations.
These conversations are often built on a foundation of lies.
(Editor's Note: This article was written for and published by the Daily Journal. It was first posted online HERE)