Publications around the globe ran stories claiming a South African pastor was eaten by crocs as he tried to recreate Jesus walking on water.
- Pastor reportedly devoured on ‘Crocodile River’
- Eaten in “a couple of minutes”
- All that was left was “a pair of sandals and his underwear floating above the water”
A few days ago, scores of news websites, including UK-based The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, The Independent and Metro, were taken in by ruse about a pastor eaten by three crocodiles while trying to walk on water. The Daily Mail was one of the first UK sites to pick up the unlikely tale.
The story was also run by other sites, including International Business Times and the Christian Post.
A quick Google search would have shown that the story was written by a satirical news site in February.
Several British news sources had quoted the Nigerian Daily Post, which had, in turn, claimed the story came from the Zimbabwe Herald. But on checking, it was discovered that the Zimbabwean paper never ran a story about ‘doomed’ pastor Jonathan Mthethwa.
The Daily Mail has since re-written its story to describe how the world was fooled by the hoax, while The Independent and several other websites have deleted the story altogether.
Earlier, media reports had narrated how Mthethwa was devoured by three crocodiles as he tried to replicate Christ’s miracle on South Africa’s White River, purportedly also known as ‘Crocodile River’.
An ‘eyewitness’ account had a ‘shocked parishioner’ reportedly saying: “Unfortunately he ended up drowning and getting eaten by three large crocodiles in front of us. They finished him in a couple of minutes. All that was left when they finished eating him was a pair of sandals and his underwear floating above the water. We still don’t understand how this happened because he fasted and prayed the whole week.”
This is not the first time such an improbable yarn has captured imaginations, with traces back to 1993. It surfaced again in British tabloids in 2006. In those tales, a pastor simply drowned while trying to recreate the miracle of walking on water. Crocodiles savaging the victim is a recent embellishment.
With so blatantly irresponsible news reporting, fighting fake news is truly an arduous task.