Don't Gild the Willy

Various fake news sites reported that a lottery winner died after gold-plating his genitals.

gold plated testicles

Claim:  A lottery winner died after attempting to gold-plate his testicles.

FALSE

Example: [Collected via e-mail, November 2015]

"Atlanta Lottery Winner Dies After Gold Plating His Testicles." Seriously, did this really happen?

Origins:   In November 2015, a number of fake news sites began sharing articles claiming a lottery winner died after attempting to gold-plate his testicles; Now8News' 28 November 2015 version (titled "Atlanta Lottery Winner Dies After Gold Plating His Testicles") held:

Growing up in a life of poverty, 38-year-old Justin Green saw his hopes and dreams come true when hitting $100 million Georgia lottery last month.  Friends reported that Green immediately quit his job at Walmart and made plans for a “better life.” Apparently, his idea of a better life would not be at the top of the list for most lottery winners. 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.

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.

A 19 November 2015 iteration titled "Canadian Jackpot Winner Dies After Attempting To Gold Plate His Balls" appeared on the web site Viral Covert, reporting:

Justin Reiter from Alberta, Canada, died of medical complications after attempting to gold plate his own genitals to celebrate an astonishing $598,556 jackpot win ... Justin started by painting his genitals with a lead-based paint, but quickly decided that a simple coloring wasn’t enough: he needed to take it to the next level, he needed the real gold. To complete the makeshift operation, Reiter used a professional automotive gold plater that he borrowed from a garage. Unfortunately in the twelve hours following the procedure, Justing encountered a series of health issues that ultimately led to his death.

Both iterations featured the same image of a doctor purportedly involved with the fatal incident:

gold plate testicles

Now8News identified the physician depicted as "Dr. William Rife at Emory University Hospital"; Viral Covert claimed the photo was "Dr Ian Joseffson of the Alberta Community Hospital" (as did an earlier, similar fake news story on the disreputable web site World News Daily Report). Initially, a reverse image search failed to locate that photo elsewhere on the web; upon closer inspection, it was clear that the doctor's photograph was mirrored to inhibit such searching (as evidenced by the embroidery on his jacket):

doctor gold plate testicles

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:

popek

Both World News Daily Report and Now8News are well-known fake news web sites, and the latter bears no disclaimer warning its readers that its content is fabricated. Earlier hoaxes perpetuated by Now8News included claims a man was found having sex with a pig in the bathroom of a Walmart; aborted fetuses were used to make Chicken McNuggets; Walmart bananas were infested with deadly parasitic worms; KFC was found breeding mutated chickens; a woman was arrested after engaging in a sex act with a breakfast sausage; a separate woman was arrested for "trying on" feminine hygiene products at Walmart; a man fed the remains of his unfaithful fiancee to her parents; and a man was discovered cannibalizing a teen inside a haunted house attraction.

Last updated: 29 November 2015

Originally published: 29 November 2015

Kim LaCapria is a New York-based content manager and longtime snopes.com message board participant. Although she was investigated and found to be "probably false" by snopes.com in early 2002, Kim later began writing for the site due to an executive order unilaterally passed by President Obama during a secret, late-night session (without the approval of Congress). Click like and share if you think this is an egregious example of legislative overreach.



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