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Jaleel White of Urkel Fame Is Not Dead

AP news report claims that actor Jaleel White, who played the lovable Urkel in "Family Matters", has committed suicide (Full commentary below).


Example:(Submitted, June 2006)
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) Jaleel White, who played 'nerdy' neighbor Steve Urkel on "Family Matters" found dead Monday. He was 29 years old. White was pronounced dead on arrival after admission to an LA hospital early Monday morning. The death is being investigated as a suicide. Born Jaleel Ahmad White, he began his career at the age of three acting in television commercials, before landing guest spots on shows such as "The Jeffersons" and "Mr. Belvedere." It was in 1989 that White landed the role that would make him famous, playing wacky neighbor 'Steve Urkel' on the ABC program "Family Matters."

Following the cancellation of "Family Matters" in 1997, friends claim White became obsessed with the character, and grew despondent, despite further successes as star and producer of the UPN sitcom "Grownups", and as a writer for

Neighbor and friend, Bradley Spencer alerted police after hearing what he described as "a loud bang" coming from White's Los Angeles apartment. Authorities state that upon entering the home they discovered a young African-American male with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Also found was a note, which read simply "Did I do that?", a popular catchphrase from the show.

"Jaleel was an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model and a great comedic actor," said William Bickley, who created the series, and Thomas L. Miller, one of the executive producers, in a joint statement. "We feel privileged to have known him and worked with him. He'll be missed and remembered every day by his many, many friends," they said.

Actress Kellie Williams Laura Winslow on the series described White as a consummate professional actor. "Everyone adored him," she said. "We have all lost a dear, dear brother," said Reginald VelJohnson, who played Carl Winslow.

White, an only child, is survived by "cousins, aunts, uncles, and wonderful friends," Bickley said.

In June 2006, yet another fake news story falsely announcing the untimely death of a celebrity was hitting inboxes. This time, the "victim" is US based actor and writer Jaleel White, perhaps best known for his role as the irritating but lovable Steve Urkel in the comedy series "Family Matters". However, Jaleel White is alive and well. The actor has now publicly declared this fact on his official website.

Like others of its kind, the message is disguised as an apparently legitimate news article attributed to the Associated Press( AP) news service. However searches of the AP website reveal no record of such an article. Versions of the "news" story have been circulating online since late 2005. White apparently once jokingly told TV Guide that he would be "trying to commit suicide and just don't know how to do it" if he decided to play the "Urkel" character again and this seemingly lead to earlier rumours that he took his own life after "Family Matters" ended. Another rumour claimed that he died of the eating disorder Anorexia apparently in a prolonged form of suicide. As one poster to the IMDb forums notes, the stories would have us believe that Jaleel has now committed suicide at least three times in the last few years. The author of this fictional news report was perhaps inspired by these earlier rumours.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) filmography for Jaleel White records that he has appeared in several productions during 2006, including TV drama "24". Although White has kept a comparatively low profile since the demise of Urkel and Family Matters, he has been busy acting and writing for a variety of productions and there is no evidence to suggest that he "became obsessed with the [Urkel] character, and grew despondent".

If White had really committed suicide then there would certainly be legitimate news reports about his death in a variety of media. However, there are no genuine news reports confirming the story. The only news references to the actors' death are those debunking the story as a hoax.

Also, the message claims that White left a suicide note that consisted only of Urkel's popular catchphrase, "Did I do that?". Clearly, this is the hoax writer's rather lame attempt at humour, and is another indicator that the story is bogus.

Hoaxes about the demise of well known people are not uncommon. Earlier in 2006, a hoax falsely claimed that actor Will Ferrell had died in a hang-gliding accident. In 2004, a fake news article claimed that American Idol contestant William Hung had died of a deliberate drug overdose.

There is nothing remotely funny or clever about spreading false rumours about a person's death, regardless of his or her celebrity status. If you receive a message claiming that a well-known person has died, always take the time to check its veracity before sending it on.

References: Official Website
"Family Matters"
Associated Press
Goodbye, Urkel( Scroll to last Item)
Urkelnet: Rumors
IMDb forums (Registration Required)
IMDb: Jaleel White
TV Squad: Jaleel White is NOT dead!

Last updated: 10th June 2006
First published: 7th June 2006

Write-up by Brett M.Christensen