Friday, 18 March 2011

Making a boob over a poisoned snake

On 14 March, the Sun, Mail and Metro all printed a story about Israeli model Orit Fox being bitten on the breast by a snake:

Going by the date-stamps of the comments on each article, it appears the Sun was first with this 'news' and the others mindlessly followed. Each article served up the same scant 'facts', a few blurry stills and an embedded video of the incident.

Daily Mail Reporter reveals:

...surgically enhanced Israeli model Orit Fox got more than she bargained for when the massive boa constrictor took objection to her over familiarity and reacted by biting into her breast.

However, it was the snake who came off worse because, while Ms Fox need a tetanus shot in hospital, the reptile later died from silicone poisoning.

It all sounds very unlikely - even if you accept a snake can die of silicone poisoning, you would think it would have needed to pierce the implant, which would surely have resulted in more extensive medical treatment for the woman than a 'tetanus shot'.

So did the snake die? According to the Daily What, no:

When the story first emerged on the BuzzMedia-owned gossip site Oh No They Didn’t, it was accompanied by a short caption containing this quip: “The snake later died from silicone poisoning.”

“Really? Poor snake,” lamented a reader; “lmao I was joking!,”
replied the article’s author.

So a joke made on a celebrity gossip website becomes accepted as true, without any basic fact-checking, by three British newspapers and their websites and then run as news 11 days later.

In fact, the Daily Week shows, it spread more widely than that, appearing in the New York Daily News, Huffington Post (with hat-tip to The Sun), Best Week Ever and many other places.

Some of these have started to update and correct their original stories. For example, the Huffington Post says:

Update: The Daily What reports that the snake actually made it out alive! That means it's Model: 0, Snake: 0.

And Best Week Ever admits:

UPDATE/CORRECTION: It turns out the snake didn’t die. The Daily Mail and the Daily News picked up a joke from ONTD as part of the story by accident. The rest is still accurate. Sorry, guys. Congratulations, snake. And thanks to Rich Juzwiak’s comprehensive Tweet for clearing that up.

But so far there have been no amendments to the 'stories' published by the Sun, Mail and Metro.

(Hat-tip to Bisyss at the Mailwatch Forum)


  1. As you say, the story sounds incredibly unlikely - I can't believe three newspapers seriously believed it to be true. Presumably they just thought it too good a sniggering opportunity to pass up.

    Lots of readers will probably believe it though.

  2. Obviously none of these newspapers thought there was anything odd about a boa constrictor biting somebody. I always thought there was a tiny clue as to what it did in the snake's name, which might put an averagely well-read thirteen year old on notice that the story might not be wholly accurate.

  3. Oh No They Didn't is a effectively a gossip blog anyone can post to. There's moderator control, of course, but taking anything from there without seriously checking to make sure it's true is spectacularly stupid.

  4. I wonder if these people who hide behind "Daily Mail Reporter" get a choice on when they can and cannot use their real names?

    In this case it's clear to see why someone may choose to do that as even if this was true it's not even real news. The cover up name is Probably damage protection for if they go out and get real journalism jobs in the future. I certainly wouldn't want to be associated with any of the stories written by "Daily Mail Reporter" if it was me.

  5. No they use it because they know the report's shite

  6. //Obviously none of these newspapers thought there was anything odd about a boa constrictor biting somebody//

    That's because there is nothing odd about it. Boa's and pythons constrict things they want to eat (they'll bite it first to get purchase before throwing loops around it), but they will generally defend themselves by aggressive biting. And they can really carve someone up with their teeth if they want. Generally, unlike venomous snake that bites, injects venom and lets go, a constrictor will bite and hold...and hold...and hold.

  7. British tabloids are not worth reading. As a Brit who is ashamed of the attention given to these publications, please ignore them. Please.

  8. Trouble is, Anon on 22 March, millions of people do give them attention by buying, reading and believing them. Someone has to present the opposing view.

  9. I think 22 March's plead was aimed at the typical UK tabloid reader, not the readers of this blog.

    What a shame the other papers haven't printed a correction. Presumably it's only because the snake hasn't sued for libel as yet.


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