Ever come across a story headlined “DNA Clears Black Man Convicted of Bear Attack”? How about “African-American Neighborhood Terrorized by Ask Murderer”? Both stem from The Onion, one of the best-known satirical newspapers in the country. When their headlines tear across Facebook timelines, there’s always somebody in the feed who sips the Kool-Aid and gets fooled. Well, TheNewsNerd site recently tried their hand at parody news, and Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin was not amused.
“Patti LaBelle Arrested After Fist Fight with Aretha Franklin” screamed last Friday’s headline, announcing a story full of completely fabricated details (“LaBelle quickly removed her wig and earrings as she approached Franklin…”) meant for water-cooler hilarity. But Aretha Franklin’s not laughing. With worldwide fans taking the article as gospel, Franklin has filed a $10 million lawsuit.
“The stories were not presented as satire or humor,” says Franklin. “It was presented as a serious news story intended to depict me in a slanderous and derogatory way—defamation of character.” On Tuesday, the Motown icon released the following statement:
“I’ve never heard anything crazier—regarding myself and Patti allegedly fighting on March 20, in Atlanta. On March 20, I was in New York City readying for my birthday patty (Sorry. LOL. Laughing at my typo error). I meant PARTY, which we all had one fabulous time. Patti and I are cool and we always have been. I enjoyed her at the White House. Classic Patti.”
Maybe TheNewsNerd ran with its not-so-funny item after someone saw Women of Soul: In Performance at the White House on PBS on April 7. Franklin appeared to brush past Patti LaBelle at one point, but by the end of her performance, she leaves the stage hugging LaBelle close.
Discerning readers should know better not to believe everything they read on the Internet, especially when the source is TheNewsNerd as opposed to The New York Times. Kudos to Ms. Franklin fighting for her reputation.