Rumors of Oprah Winfrey's death a hoax

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Internet users, as well as editors making edits on Wikinews and Wikipedia, have been the victims of a recent hoax that talk show host Oprah Winfrey has been found dead in her Chicago, Illinois home. The rumors are considered to be a hoax, connected with the online group known as Anonymous. Other reports say that the website 4chan.org is responsible for starting the rumor which began to spread quickly over the Internet.

Winfrey is set to appear on tonight's Emmy Awards ceremony broadcast.

The rumors started after a statement Winfrey made on a recent show, defending a United States Senate bill against pedophiles and child rapists saying a pedophile group has "over 9,000 penises" harming children. She was referring to a comment left on her website by an individual affiliated with Anonymous who was claiming to be a pedophile. Wikinews can confirm through anonymous sources that the rumor was started by the group Anonymous and the website 4chan.

Winfrey at her 50th birthday party at Hotel Bel Air.
Image: Alan Light.

According to an edit made by Camalex, a registered user on Wikipedia, Winfrey was found dead "in her Chicago home early Saturday morning". It was followed by a source linking to a Digg.com article, which links to oprahsdeath, a blog website regarding her alleged death. The first edit to her Wikipedia article, which was posted by an anonymous user, stated that Winfrey was "lying dead on her bed" when a family member found her. According to the edit, she had been suffering chest pains for several days, but concealed the discomfort.

According to the oprahsdeath blog, Winfrey was found dead in her home at 8:21 a.m. on Saturday morning. Winfrey "appeared to have a bloody area around her eye, a bullet wound in her stomach and some cuts and bruises up and down her body." The post also says the suspect was "beaten" and "shot by a handgun".

Shortly after the Wikipedia edit, an anonymous user with the IP address, 24.109.236.254 on Wikinews, added an edit to the Newsroom that she had been "found dead".

On Digg users posted links to screen shots of websites allegedly carrying the news of her death via an alleged Associated Press report. Other Digg users left comments claiming to have seen it on their local news stations. Another screen shot apparently shows a BBC News article on her death which states that police released the claims.

Despite the reports, there were no other news agencies covering Winfrey's alleged death which had lead many to believe the reports to be a hoax. A user commented on the Reddit.com website that "there are over 9000 reporters currently converging on Chicago". According to Encyclopedia Dramatica, the term "Over 9000!" has been known to refer to an internet 'meme' which is derived from an Japanese television show called Dragon Ball Z and was often used to exaggerate the numbers of protesters attending recent anti-Scientology rallies.

The Post Chronicle state that the reports are nothing more than a hoax created by members of the internet website 4chan.org. According to the Post's report who quote the 4chan, they are vowing to create "joker-like chaos" for at least the "next week".

"Let us take control, create "Joker-Like" chaos, this week has been a cute start, but I believe we can do more, much more. We are the new world order. The Illuminati are like children compared to our stature. To put it simply, my point is, Kill the Oprah," stated the Chronicle.

A video posted on YouTube which shows a broadcast of Winfrey's show, shows her talking about the United States senate bill 1738 which is aimed at establishing "a Special Counsel for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction within the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, to improve the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, to increase resources for regional computer forensic labs, and to make other improvements to increase the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute predators." The bill is sponsored by 2008 vice presidential hopeful Joe Biden, Barack Obama's running mate.

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Near the end of Winfrey's statement on the bill, she states that on her message board on her show's website, someone claims to be "part of a known pedophile network."

"[He] doesn't forgive. [He] doesn't forget. His group has over 9,000 penises, and they are all raping children," stated Winfrey. "I want you to know they are organized, and they have systematic ways of hurting children". 'We don't forgive, we don't forget' is a phrase common among the group Anonymous. 4chan has claimed responsibility for the post, and in return allegedly began to spread the rumor of Winfrey's death.

One individual who claims to be part of the hoax, tells Wikinews that it "was fun as hell [spending] all day /b/ [4chan] photoshopping screenshots of news stories. She got what she deserved. She called anonymous a bunch of pedophiles. Believed a troll on her message boards".

Wikinews has contacted The Oprah Winfrey Show to get a statement on the incident, but has yet to receive a response.

The group Anonymous has claimed responsibility for several pranks, or hacks against famous people in recent days. Hackers first started by hacking into Sarah Palin's Yahoo e-mail account and the information contained in it was posted to Wikileaks.org. After the incident, FOX News commentator Bill O'Reilly made comments against Wikileaks and other press agencies who posted the material, which was met with retaliation by hackers who broke into his website, BillO'Reilly.com.


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