Following disturbing reports suggesting YouTuber Calum McSwaggan may have lied about being the victim of a homophobic attack this weekend, we take this chance to look back on the some of the biggest LGBT hoaxes of recent times
1. The Faked Arson Attack
In 2010 Tennessee couple Carol Ann Stutte and partner Laura Stutte hit the headlines their when house was sprayed with homophobic graffiti before being burnt down in an apparent arson attack.
Carol Ann blamed the couple’s neighbour, Janice Millsaps, whom she claimed said “Do you know what is better than one dead queer? Two dead queers,” one month before the fire.
The crime garnered widespread support for the couple as horrified LGBTs locally and worldwide rallied around, denouncing the attack.
However, an investigation by the FBI and the couple’s insurance company eventually revealed that the alleged attack was a ruse perpetrated by the Stuttes to claim a $276,000 insurance policy.
2. A Backflip Goes Bad
When a photo of Joseph Baken’s battered face went viral in 2012, little could the public have realised that it was all a hoax. 22 year-old Baken claimed that he had been attacked by a group of men who hurled anti-gay insults at him during the assault in Missoula.
LGBT groups, like Wipe Out Homophobia, were quick to condemn the attack. “Nobody deserves this, especially not just because of your sexuality,” the group wrote in their Facebook post.
Surveillance footage uncovered by the police later revealed the true cause of Baken’s injuries: he had been attempting to do a backflip, sustaining injuries in the process, and had concocted a story about being attacked to spare himself embarrassment.
3. A Tip Too Far
A gay New Jersey waitress became the centre of an Internet firestorm in 2013 when a family she was serving refused to tip her on the grounds that she was a lesbian. A note from purportedly left on the receipt read: “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle.”
Former Marine Dayna Morales (who was dishonourably discharged) posted a shot of the receipt on Facebook and garnered widespread sympathy, along with generous donations (estimated at around $3,000) from well-wishers.
All was not as it seemed, however, and the family involved soon contacted a local TV station claiming that they not only tipped Morales at Gallop Asian Restaurant but never left any such note. The couple provided credit card statements to verify their statements and it became clear that Morales had fabricated the event.
Sources close to Morales said that she was a compulsive liar who had in the past claimed she had terminal cancer and was sole survivor of a bomb blast in Afghanistan, though she had never seen overseas action. Morales eventually refunded her duped supporters through Paypal.
4. Fake Party Poopers
The internet was ablaze with indignant anger in February 2014 when a homophobic response to a child’s birthday invite went viral. The invite was submitted to the New York’s K-96.3 radio station by the parents of a child (‘Sophia’) whose birthday party invite was rejected by an anti-gay parent.
“Tommy will not be attending,” read the note, purportedly from a homophobic mother, scrawled on the invitation. “I do not believe in what you do and will not subject my innocent son to your ‘lifestyle’. I’m sorry Sophia has to grow up this way.”
The story was picked up by news outlets worldwide before it was uncovered as a hoax perpetrated by the DJs who first reported the story.
“This story was, in fact, totally fictitious, and created by the two of us. This was done without the knowledge of K-98.3 management or ownership,” said radio show hosts Steve and Leeana in an apologetic statement.
“We were attempting to spur a healthy discourse on a highly passionate topic, but we made a mistake by misleading our listeners into thinking that this specific situation actually existed.”
5. Truth Wins
In April 2016, Pastor Jordan Brown posted a YouTube video claiming that staff at Whole Foods had added a homophobic slur to a customised cake he had ordered.
Brown posted an online video after collecting the cake from the Austin Whole Foods, claiming that the staff corrupted his desired message by adding ‘fag’ after ‘Love Wins’. In the video he points out that the box – which has a transparent viewing panel – is sealed, and so, unaltered by him.
Brown even staged a press conference where he choked back tears as he expressed his shock and hurt at the homophobic message and expressed his intention to sue Whole Foods.
“For me, it was humiliating,” he said, “because being a pastor who is also openly gay, I’ve had to deal with this in the past and literally the feeling that I had just resurfaced a bunch of painful memories of things that have happened to me.”
However, suspicions about the veracity of Brown’s claims began to surface almost immediately, with online commentators asking why he did not notice the clearly visible text when handling the box. Others noted a size discrepency between the ‘Love Wins’ and the ‘Fag’.
Security footage cleared the store’s bakers of any wrong-doing, and it was eventually revealed that the cake had been altered by Brown himself.
“The company did nothing wrong,” Brown later admitted in a statement. “I was wrong to pursue this matter and use the media to perpetuate this story.”
He apologised to the LGBT community “for diverting attention from real issues.”
If you are the victim of a homophobic attack, contact your local Garda station or one of the Garda LGBT Liaison Officers listed in the community pages of GCN
© 2016 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.