According to one article, which got more than 1,000 Facebook likes today, Washington was vacationing at a ski resort in Switzerland when he lost control of his snowboard and crashed into a tree. The article claimed the Academy Award winner “died instantly.” The website appears to be fake, and a way to drive traffic to the ski resort at which Washington supposedly met his end.
The Denzel hoax (yes, Huffington Post BlackVoices is on a first name basis with him) is just the latest in a long line of notable faux-fatalities.
In 1998, during a Pittsburgh Pirates game, an announcer interrupted the game to tell fans that iconic actor James Earl Jones had died. He got the wrong James Earl. It was James Early Ray, Martin Luther King’s assassin that had died. Helluva oops!
Then in 2004, a full five years before Michael Jackson really died, there was a rumor he committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. Apparently, an e-terrorist forwarded the email to trick people into downloading a virus.
Remember, folks, anyone can just go to Wiki and post and edit. In 2007 someone went on the site and wrote that the comedian Sinbad had died of a heart attack. He took it in stride. “Saturday I rose from the dead and then died again,” he said.
In 2009, Kanye West, who escaped a real near-death car crash in 2002 but had to have his mouth wired shut, was reported dead on Twitter. He was the victim of — you guessed it — a car crash. “RIPKanyeWest” became a trending topic on Twitter and West led Google searches throughout the country. As we all know by now, and are reminded time and time again, West is alive and well. Watch the Throne!
The same year, Oprah Winfrey was said to be found dead, stretched across her bed. The internet hackers Anonymous were allegedly behind the hoax. The only thing dead about Winfrey are the dead presidents she's been banking.
Another death hoax took a life of its own after @CNN tweeted “Breaking News: actor Morgan Freeman has passed away in his Burbank home.” Freeman, again, was not dead. In fact, after his purported death, the Oscar winner engaged in a love affair with his step-granddaughter and this year, hosted a show on the Discovery channel.
Then, in 2010, Internet hoaxsters killed off Bill Cosby. This was the fourth death hoax Cosby has survived. Cosby told Larry King at the time that the latest had Cosby’s own daughter calling to see if he were still alive.
That was a rough year for folks. In December of 2010 rumor spread that Aretha Franklin had died. Franklin had made it public that she was battling pancreatic cancer and was recovering from surgery.
The Fresh Prince is perhaps one of the deadest black actors of our time. In the spring of 2011, rumors said that Will Smith had died of either a drug overdose, a car accident or by falling from a cliff in New Zealand.
And just last week, shortly after the sad death of the rapper Heavy D, it was rumored that Ruby Dee, 87, was dead. Twitter erupted, and her people had to release a statement proclaiming Dee’s un-mortality. The Associated Press even ran a story debunking the rumor. According to the AP, tweeters confused her name, Ruby Dee, with the rapper’s, Heavy D.
Even the Rev. Jesse Jackson got duped. After he tweeted that Dee had died, her name became a trending topic. Not long after Jackson’s tweet, he returned to Twitter to correct the error.
"The news of the passing of Ruby Dee HAS NOT BEEN confirmed," he tweeted. He urged his followers to spread the word.
Other celebrity death hoaxes: