One common tactic used by hate-baiting fake news web sites is to use a photograph (often a mugshot) of a real person and create a story around it. On 29 January 2018, for instance, the web site World News Daily Report used an image of an obese woman to illustrate a fake news story about a rape attempt by an escaped hippopotamus at a Paris zoo:
The Paris Zoological Park is being sued after a woman claims she was sexually assaulted by a hippopotamus that had escaped the zoo for only a few hours yesterday.
The large semiaquatic mammal apparently was able to slip out of its enclosure last night after massive flooding and a fallen tree severely damaged the security fence.
Geraldine Boudin, 54, owner of a bakery next to the Zoological Park, is suing the zoo’s administration after she claims she was sexually assaulted by the huge beast after she was returning home that night.
There is no truth to this story.
The World News Daily Report is a well-known purveyor of fake news with has a long history of publishing misinformation and an apparent fascination with bestiality. In addition to this fake news story of a hippo attempting to rape a woman, they’ve previously published stories about zookeepers attempting to molest gorillas, a zookeeper attempting to rape an alligator, an octopus sexually assaulting a zoo employee, and a “koala brothel” in Australia.
The web site carries a disclaimer stating that all of its content is “satirical” in nature:
WNDR assumes however all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.
The woman pictured in this story is Vilma Soltesz, who passed away in 2012 after she was reportedly denied several flights back to the United States from Hungary due to her weight:
The husband of a Bronx woman who died abroad after she was allegedly barred from flying back to the U.S. for being too fat has settled his $6 million lawsuit against the airlines, the Daily News has learned.
Janos Soltesz, 57, quietly settled his wrongful death suit against Delta, KLM Royal Dutch and Lufthansa airlines in late August, court documents show.
The suit accused the airlines of having sent his 407-pound wife Vilma “on a debilitating ‘wild goose chase’ from airline to airline, airport to home, and country to country” that caused her to lose her life in Oct. 2012.
A hippo escaped from a zoo in Tbilisi, Georgia, in June 2015 after a massive flood. A number of animals escaped and were subsequently put down:
They were unforgettable pictures: wild animals roaming the streets of Tbilisi last month, after escaping from the city’s flood-stricken zoo. The Georgian capital had become an urban jungle. The surreal sight of a giant African hippo lumbering past brightly lit shops and snacking on roadside greenery before being tranquilised and gingerly ushered back inside the devastated zoo complex made front pages worldwide. These were almost biblical scenes of bears fighting to stay above the floodwaters, or mud-caked lions and tigers drowned or shot dead, although there was no ark to come to the rescue.
The pictured hippo, named Beggi, appears to have survived the ordeal.
Gregorian, Dareh. “Airlines Settle $6M Lawsuit in Death of Bronx Woman Who Was ‘Too Fat’ to Fly Home to the U.S.”
New York Daily News. 8 September 2014.
MacFarquhar, Neil. “Zoo Animals on the Loose in Tbilisi After Flooding.”
The New York Times. 14 June 2015.
North, Andrew. “The Tragedy of Tbilisi Zoo – What Happened Next?”
The Guardian. 8 July 2015.