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An Elephant or The Moon - Dumbest Quiz Show Contestant Hoax

Outline
Circulating "news" article claims that a recent contestant on the quiz show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" was so dumb that she thought that an elephant was bigger than the moon.



Brief Analysis
The claims in the message are false. The supposed news article was taken from a satirical website that featured fake news items on a variety of subjects. The photograph included with the message is a doctored adaptation of a legitimate screenshot. The real question asked for another name for the "trachea" and had nothing to do with elephants or the moon. The contestant answered the question correctly and won 32,000.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.

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Last updated: 1st October 2010
First published: 5th February 2007
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example:
Subject: FW: How NOT to be a millionaire

Moon or Elephant

NEW YORK Idaho resident Kathy Evans brought humiliation to her friends and family Tuesday when she set a new standard for stupidity with her appearance on the popular TV show, "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire."

It seems that Evans, a 32-year-old wife and mother of two, got stuck on the first question, and proceeded to make what fans of the show are dubbing "the absolute worst use of lifelines ever."

After being introduced to the show's host Meredith Vieira, Evans assured her that she was ready to play, whereupon she was posed with an extremely easy $100 question. The question was:

"Which of the following is the largest?"
A) A Peanut
B) An Elephant
C) The Moon
D) Hey, who you calling large?

Immediately Mrs. Evans was struck with an all consuming panic as she realized that this was a question to which she did not readily know the answer.

"Hmm, oh boy, that's a toughie," said Evans, as Vieira did her level best to hide her disbelief and disgust. "I mean, I'm sure I've heard of some of these things before, but I have no idea how large they would be."

Evans made the decision to use the first of her three lifelines, the 50/50. Answers A and D were removed, leaving her to decide which was bigger, an elephant or the moon. However, faced with an incredibly easy question, Evans still remained unsure.

"Oh! It removed the two I was leaning towards!" exclaimed Evans. "Darn. I think I better phone a friend."

Using the second of her two lifelines on the first question, Mrs. Evans asked to be connected with her friend Betsy, who is an office assistant.

"Hi Betsy! How are you? This is Kathy! I'm on TV!" said Evans, wasting the first seven seconds of her call. "Ok, I got an important question. Which of the following is the largest? B, an elephant, or C, the moon. 15 seconds hun."

Betsy quickly replied that the answer was C, the moon. Evans proceeded to argue with her friend for the remaining ten seconds.

"Come on Betsy, are you sure?" said Evans. "How sure are you? Puh, that can't be it."

To everyone's astonishment, the moronic Evans declined to take her friend's advice and pick 'The Moon.'

"I just don't know if I can trust Betsy. She's not all that bright. So I think I'd like to ask the audience," said Evans.

Asked to vote on the correct answer, the audience returned 98% in favor of answer C, 'The Moon.' Having used up all her lifelines, Evans then made the dumbest choice of her life.

"Wow, seems like everybody is against what I'm thinking," said the too-stupid-to-live Evans. "But you know, sometimes you just got to go with your gut. So, let's see. For which is larger, an elephant or the moon, I'm going to have to go with B, an elephant. Final answer." Evans sat before the dumbfounded audience, the only one waiting with bated breath, and was told that she was wrong, and that the answer was in fact, C, 'The Moon.'




Detailed Analysis
We humans love to laugh at apparent displays of stupidity by others, which may explain why this fake "news" story has circulated so widely. The article has been posted to numerous forums and blogs and is also traversing cyberspace in the form of an email forward.

The story claims that, when she appeared on the quiz show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire", Kathy Evans of Idaho "set a new standard for stupidity" when she could not answer a question that asked her to identify the largest item from a list comprising an elephant, the moon and a peanut. According to the message, despite using all of her "lifelines", Kathy ultimately "went with her gut" and locked in "Elephant" as her final answer.

However, the incident described never happened. The article originated from BSNews.org, a, now defunct, satirical website that featured fake news items on a variety of subjects. Within their original context, it was clear to even gullible readers that the articles were satirical in nature and were not intended to be taken seriously. Even the name of the site (BS News) would have alerted astute visitors to its true nature. Moreover, the site included the following disclaimer on its "About" page:
DISCLAIMER: BSNews.org, and all it's contents, fall under the category of Satire and Parody. Don't take any of this bull[****] seriously, ok? In other words, NONE OF THIS IS REAL! Understand? Good.
However, the article was apparently lifted from its original setting and began circulating as a supposedly legitimate news item, thereby fooling many recipients into believing its claims. The original version claimed that the host slapped "Kathy's" face after the show and she was subsequently hospitalized "in critical condition" after being beaten by angry audience members. The version currently circulating omits these details, possibly because they are so far-fetched that they would likely "give the game away".

The photograph included with the message is a doctored adaptation of a legitimate screenshot from the UK version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire". The real question asked for another name for the "trachea" and had nothing to do with elephants or the moon. And the contestant's name is Fiona Wheeler, not "Kathy Evans" as claimed in the message. What's more, far from being stupid, Fiona answered the question correctly and won 32,000.

Original Quiz Screenshot

It is not uncommon for satirical "news" items to break out of the confines of their original settings and circulate via other means, fooling gullible recipients as they travel. A 2004 "news" article from another satirical news site falsely reported the demise of American Idol contestant William Hung. Another fake news item describes proposed legislation intended to provide work-place benefits for "the millions of Americans who lack any real skills or ambition".

It is always wise to check the validity of any apparent news items that arrive via email or are posted to blogs and forums. If information in such items is genuine, it will usually be featured on legitimate news outlets such as online news websites and will not be hard to verify.

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References
Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
William Hung Is Not Dead
Americans With No Abilities Act Hoax

Last updated: 1st October 2010
First published: 5th February 2007
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer