There was a huge viral news story over the weekend that had website editors burning up their keyboards. The headline? Man Dies After Gold Plating Testicles.
But was it true?
Though it looked legitimate with the CNN banner on the image, this was another fraudulent story promoted by a couple well known bogus news sites.
Now8News wrote a story entitled “Atlanta Lottery Winner Dies After Gold Plating His Testicles.” It talked about 38-year-old Justin Green who won $100 million in the Georgia lottery last month. Now8News stories often contain a Walmart component and, sure enough, Green allegedly worked at the superstore. He of course quit his job after winning, and because as a young man “Green was obsessed with the 2002 movie comedy Goldmember – an Austin Powers parody of the bond movie Goldfinger in which Powers is hunting a criminal mastermind who colors his victims ‘man parts’ in gold,” Green went into action.
According to family members, Green went on a shopping spree which included gold and diamond chains, exotic cars, custom gold and diamond “grills” and…. get this….gold plated genitals. Green approached many people in the gold plating business, however he was turned down by every store owner – Green was warned this was a very dangerous procedure. Green began painting his genitals with lead-based paint, but quickly decided that a simple coloring wasn’t enough – he needed the real gold. To complete the makeshift operation, Green used a professional automotive gold plater that he borrowed from a garage. Unfortunately in the 12 hours following the procedure, Green encountered a series of health issues that ultimately led to his death.
The authors might have gotten away with the fake facts except that same month a near-identical story popped up on ViralConvert. This one was titled “Canadian Jackpot Winner Dies After Attempting To Gold Plate His Balls” and it had the same image, with Atlanta being swapped out for Canada. An identical image of a doctor was quoted in both stories as well, but under two different names.
We couldn’t find this man’s image online, but Snopes.com cleverly figured out that the doctor’s picture had been flipped so that media sites like FTK couldn’t easily search for his image to verify whether or not this was a real doctor. They were also able to determine who the gold-grilled guy in the main image was.
A search using that image revealed that the photograph of the doctor was swiped from a 12 May 2012 article about a health scare in Tulsa; the physician was correctly identified in that story as “Dr. Michael Smith [of] St. John Health System ER.” Similarly, the purported testicle-gilding lottery winner was in fact Polish rapper Popek.