Fake News About Michael Sheen And CeeLo Green Published Widely
Fake news articles about Michael Sheen quitting acting to fight the rise of Fascists in Europe and CeeLo Green being injured by an exploding cell phone were published by scores of outlets over the weekend. The two reports had a common theme: They were both widely spread without being fact-checked. Gossip Cop, on the other hand, did not publish stories about either since we were unable to confirm their validity.
With Sheen, places like Variety and People published stories that claimed he was leaving Hollywood and returning to the U.K. to become a full-time activist. Those outlets and many more (that had to rewrite their articles on Sunday) quoted an interview the actor gave the British newspaper The Times in which he said, “In the same way as the Nazis had to be stopped in Germany in the Thirties, this thing that is on the rise has to be stopped.” Those publications and numerous sites further focused on Sheen noting his growing activism had become a “natural progression,” which they cited as the reason for him quitting acting.
Actually, Sheen NEVER said he was switching from actor to full-time activist. On Sunday, because the fake news spread out of control, Sheen had to issue a statement that read, “I did one interview with The Times of London a few weeks ago, parts of which (including a headline that is not a quote) have been picked up by a lot of other outlets. I DID NOT declare that I’m ‘quitting acting and leaving Hollywood’ to go into politics.” He explained, “In the actual original interview I said I have become more involved with community issues back at home over the last few years and because of the political situation it’s something I would like to focus on more. The interviewer asked me what that meant for my career and I said it might mean I work less as an actor and maybe even stop for a while AT SOME POINT. But I don’t really know yet.”
Sheen continued in his clarification, “I certainly did NOT equate people who voted for Brexit or Trump with a fascistic ‘hard right’ that must be stopped. The majority of people in the U.K., including my hometown of Port Talbot, voted for Brexit. That is the will of the people and is to be respected. That is democracy. Given the concerns around the economy in the area I come from and its industrial history I totally empathise with the dissatisfaction with the status quo that the vote was partially an expression of.” The actor added, “What I think must be resisted is the re-emerging spectre of fascism in the West. Our democracy must be defended and each of us needs to decide how we can contribute to that effort.”
As for Green, the often discredited MediaTakeOut posted surveillance video of the musician sitting in a recording studio, where at one point his cell phone appeared to explode and knocked the artist out of his chair and onto the ground. Again, a number of outlets, which have now updated their original stories, reported as fact that Green was injured from the blast of the phone. HollywoodLife, which itself has been caught manufacturing fake news, never bothered to fact-check before writing, “Green was just minding his own business, chilling in the recording studio, when his cellphone blew up in his face.” The webloid continued, “The blast is so sudden that CeeLo is knocked out of his chair, arms flailing, as he falls to the ground… It’s unclear how long he was laying there.” “What makes this even scarier is that there’s no word on what happened to CeeLo following the small explosion,” adds the unreliable site.
What makes ALL of this scarier is that no one checked with Green or his reps whether the explosion was real or not. Eventually, Green himself addressed the stunt on Facebook. He said on a live video, “I just want to let everybody know that I am alive, and I’m well, and I’m OK.” He further apologized and said he was “upset that anybody had to be emotionally disturbed by what they saw today.” Green, once a member of the duo Gnarls Barkley, then explained the fake footage was for a project he’s working on called “Gnarly Davidson.”
“It’s supposed to set up and introduce the new character identity,” noted Green, who added, “Forgive me, y’all, I’m still going to release the music though. But first and foremost, for everybody that love me and care about me, I just want to say that I’m OK.”
While Sheen comments could be attributed to a reporter misconstruing the actor’s words or perhaps even taken them a little further for a juicier story, Green’s manufactured surveillance footage was simply a stunt. Regardless of the degree to which each was deceptive and wrong, it doesn’t absolve outlets from not fact-checking before reporting and spreading what’s ultimately fake news. Whether an outlet has a good reputation or not, in the end they’re all guilty of publishing falsehoods. It’s the reason why Gossip Cop was created, and it’s the reason Gossip Cop did not fall prey to these untrue news reports.
We may not be bigger than these other outlets, but we take a lot of pride in being more accurate and better at fact-checking. Admittedly, we’re not perfect, but while others will simply regurgitate stories, Gossip Cop promises to always do its best at reporting them out.