Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"Did I do that?"

Rumors of "Steve Urkel's" death are greatly exaggerated...(Paul McCartney's, too!)

Each week I do a radio feature on 101qfl called "Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop." I take a look at an e-mail rumor and either de-bunk it or verify its truthfulness, using resources like and Truth or

This week, the rumor I tackled was that actor Jaleel White--Steve Urkel on the erstwhile TV show, Family Matters--had committed suicide.

It seems that every couple of years, a rumor goes around about a celebrity dying. When I was growing up, there was the rumor about Paul McCartney being dead—and he's very much alive and still thriving (even the father of a small child) at age 64. Now, with everyone having access to e-mail, it's even easier to spread such rumors.

Well, you'll be happy to know that in the case of Urkel—or should we say, Jaleel---the rumor now circulating e-mail inboxes simply isn't true. Jaleel White is alive and well.

The fake AP story goes into great detail, claiming White was pronounced dead on arrival at an LA hospital, listing his acting credits, and even quoting his castmates from Family Matters as being terribly upset about their supposed loss. It "quotes" the dad on the show, Reginald VelJohnson, as saying, "We have all lost a dear, dear brother."

And the story claims White left a suicide note saying simply, "Did I do that?" –a popular catchphrase from the show.

Well, according to my sources, the story is a hoax.

Snopes says, quote, "Although Jaleel has been out of the public eye for a while, he is alive and well. No news outlets, including the Associated Press, the purported source of the article, have published accounts about Jaleel White's death."

White also responded to a website called with this note, quote: " I'm very much alive and well. Thank you to all who have chosen to spread the truth about my mortality.


Why fabricate celebrity deaths?

Who knows why the public feels the need to spread false rumors of celebrity deaths…but White isn't the first one. As I mentioned earlier, there was the Paul McCartney rumor years ago, and more recently (quoting Snopes again) "there have also been death rumors about William Hung of American Idol fame, Subway pitchman Jared Fogel, children's television host Steve Burns of Blue's Clues."

Now, about that Paul McCartney rumor...

How well I remember when that rumor made the rounds, back when I was in junior high. Supposedly, all sorts of clues about McCartney's death could be found in Beatles albums (none of which I owned.)

It really gave me the creeps, just as things like "backward masking" and even that ghost voice phenomenon thing does--even though I think both are hooey.

According to Wikipedia: 'Paul Is Dead' is one of the best-known examples of an urban legend or hoax (it is often unclear whether proponents spread the story as a joke or as a real conspiracy theory). The rumour has been the topic of much sociological examination because it is unusual in the way its development, growth and debunking took place very publicly, due to the Beatles' enormous popularity."

Some people think the Beatles themselves orchestrated the whole thing in order to boost their lagging popularity at the time.

But hey...if you really believe the rumors are true and Paul McCartney is dead, you need to see this video, in which Chris Farley gets the scoop from McCartney himself. :)

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