CLAIM

An A-list celebrity had car trouble in your town and afterwards praised the locals for being awesomely helpful.
See Example(s)

EXAMPLES
Collected via e-mail, April 2016

Did Tom Hanks really have a flat tire in Canton, Ohio?

Have you heard the story that Bill Murray was in Bloomington, Indiana, had a flat tire and was surprised when several people stopped to help. Changed his tire and he was on his way. True or false?

Will Ferrell, Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford all had flat tires and commented on the residents of several different cities with the exact same statement according to WCPM 3 News website.

I keep seeing news items on FB about Jennifer Aniston getting help with an overheated car in different cities:

“During a radio interview this morning, Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston took a moment to praise Springfield, Oregon residents who had helped her with a mechanical issue with her rental car as she passed through the city recently.”

FALSE

RATING

FALSE

ORIGIN

At the end of March 2016, our readers began asking us whether it was true that some very famous people had experienced flat tires in small towns across America and later praised the residents of those areas for their kindness and eagerness to render assistance. Those queries were very similar to ones we had received a month earlier about a similar spate of false rumors about many A-list celebrities’ choosing to move to small towns in the U.S. and Canada, having tired of Hollywood’s phoniness and fallen in love with the little slices of Heaven found in smaller and quieter communities. The articles all feature a revolving list of celebrities (e.g., Matthew McConaughey, Patrick Dempsey, Bill Murray, Tom Hanks, Adam Sandler, Harrison Ford, Will Ferrell) purportedly talking about a variety of towns across the U.S. (e.g., Mustang, Oklahoma; Marion, Illinois; Rochester, New Hampshire; Pflugerville, Texas; Marion, Ohio).

Like the “celebrity moving” to a small town hoaxes, all these snippets of entertainment news came from what appeared to be just two websites: WLEB 21 and WCPM 3 News (both used “local news source” as tag lines, without specifying precisely just where the sites were local to). Again, either a very untrustworthy tire dealer was operating somewhere in Los Angeles, or these two brand new sites were novel social media prank generators aimed at attracting traffic through reams of localized shares.

The two web sites are virtually identical in appearance:

Harrison_Ford_had_this_to_say_about_the_residents_of_Warner_Robins__Georgia_–_WCPM_3_News

Tom_Hanks_had_this_to_say_about_the_residents_of_Canton__Ohio_–_WLEB_21

And the similarities between the sites aren’t solely stylistic — the celebrity experiences they report are also implausibly identical:

Hollywood actor Tom Hanks passed through Canton, Ohio recently and apparently was quite impressed with the residents there. In an interview this week Hanks said:

“Well, we had a flat tire just as we were about to leave the city limits of Canton and two, maybe three cars pulled over within five minutes to help us with it. And no, they had no idea who I was before they pulled over. They were very helpful and very friendly. I gotta say, I was really impressed with the people of Canton, Ohio! That would’ve never happened in L.A.!”

Tom_Hanks_Canton__Ohio_–_WLEB_21

Hollywood actor Harrison Ford passed through San Angelo, Texas recently and apparently was quite impressed with the residents there. In an interview this week Ford said:

“Well, we had a flat tire just as we were about to leave the city limits of San Angelo and two, maybe three cars pulled over within five minutes to help us with it. And no, they had no idea who I was before they pulled over. They were very helpful and very friendly. I gotta say, I was really impressed with the people of San Angelo, Texas! That would’ve never happened in L.A.!”

Harrison_Ford_said_this_about_the_residents_of_San_Angelo__Texas_–_WCPM_3_News

Hollywood actor Will Ferrell passed through Harlingen, Texas recently and apparently was quite impressed with the residents there. In an interview this week Ferrell said:

“Well, we had a flat tire just as we were about to leave the city limits of Harlingen and two, maybe three cars pulled over within five minutes to help us with it. And no, they had no idea who I was before they pulled over. They were very helpful and very friendly. I gotta say, I was really impressed with the people of Harlingen, Texas! That would’ve never happened in L.A.!”

Harrison Ford and Tom Hanks were among celebrities so purportedly unfortunate that they experienced flat tires in multiple small towns (but fortunate in that all those areas were home to very helpful residents):

Harrison_Ford_2 Warner_Robins__Georgia_–_WCPM_3_News

Tom_Hanks_said_this_about_the_residents_of_Council_Bluffs__Iowa_–_WCPM_3_News1

WCPM 3 News and WLEB 21 also bear disclaimers identical to each other and to those of the two sites that were behind the “celebrity moving to a small town” rumors (Headline Brief and McKenzie Post):

WCPM 3 News is a fantasy news site. All news articles on wcpm3.com are satire or pure fantasy.

WLEB 21 is a fantasy news site. All news articles on wleb21.com are satire or pure fantasy.

McKenzie Post, Headline Brief, WCPM 3 News, and WLEB 21 were very similar to the prank generator FeedNewz, the primary purpose of which is user submission of fake news stories for sharing among social media friends. Social media users eagerly to share these seemingly relevant items, in turn driving traffic to the sites and boosting their bottom lines. While sharing the phony news reports causes no direct harm to readers, the trend contributes to a social media climate encouraging hoax purveyors through financial incentives.