Sheriff: Morgue assistant's meatballs at cook-off not made of male body parts

Williamson County Sheriff Bennie Vick’s office declared "fake news" after a satirical article went viral

By Jake Sheridan
Chicago Tribune

CARTERVILLE, Ill. — Relax, the meatballs in Carterville are safe. They definitely don’t have human body parts in them, according to the Williamson County sheriff.

After a viral satirical article falsely said that a morgue assistant used male meat to win a Carterville spaghetti cook-off, Williamson County Sheriff Bennie Vick’s office declared “fake news.”

Readers wouldn’t need to look too hard to find the falsehood themselves, the sheriff’s office noted.

“The fake news was on a fake news website,” Vick’s office said in a Wednesday news release. “The headline of this fake news website says, ‘News you can count on to let you down.’ "

One must hope that readers could have discerned deceit even if they hadn’t spotted the site’s confessing banner.

The imaginative piece claims that a Carterville woman had never been able to do better than second place in the cooking competition. To get herself over the hump and take home the top prize, the morgue worker collected the testes of dead men and used them in her meatball dish, the false article said.

Her secret ingredient was discovered when one judge, who went back for a third serving, bit down on a prosthetic, the fake article continued.

The totally false piece appeared in late July on KVTA4, a website that describes itself as a “fabricated satirical newspaper and comedy website,” but which is also designed to look like a news website. Facebook users have reacted to, commented on or shared the fake article over 300,000 times, according to CrowdTangle, a tool to analyze interactions across the social network.

Some Facebook users didn’t appear to notice that the article was fake.

“That may be the most disgusting thing I have ever read,” one user wrote.

“What in the actual hell is going on with people,” another use wrote in all caps.

“The world’s gone crazy. More to come,” said another.

The article has been rewritten and posted on other malicious or satirical websites that share made-up stories but posture like real news outlets. Fact-checker Snopes labeled the piece as satire.

The fake article displayed a photo of an apparently arrested woman, who the site said was the audacious chef.

“These kinds of satirical articles about morgues usually repurpose real-life mug shots for their fictional tales,” Snopes reporter Jordan Liles wrote.

The sheriff’s office used the hoax article’s spread to serve up tips on spotting misinformation.

Readers can identify “fake news” by scoping out sources, with particular attention to a suspicious site’s contact page, “about” page or an article’s URL, the sheriff’s office wrote. They can also check to see if other sites are reporting the story and should beware of sloppy writing, the sheriff’s office said.

While readers can identify misinformation, they won’t be able to identify who has the best spaghetti in the small southern Illinois town: The fake article didn’t say who won the cook-off.

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