Both Zap2It and the Post Chronicle are reporting that Dateline NBC‘s Chris Hansen was not arrested in early September. The host of To Catch a Predator apparently has become the victim of a Wikipedia hoax. A post on Wikipedia stated that he had been arrested for child molestation on Sept. 3, 2010. It was also a hotly searched topic soon afterward.
A man with the same last name was arrested on Sept. 1, but he is in no way related to Chris Hansen. James William Hansen was charged with several counts of sexual abuse regarding an incident in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The motive for the mix-up seemed to be an attempt to drive up website traffic to a particular Internet site.
In June of 2010, Justin Bieber was hit with a double whammy of hoaxes. First a rumor spread that he was arrested for smoking marijuana, even though he’s just 16 years old. The rumor probably started if people happened to see the set of a recent CSI filming, where the singer did indeed get arrested, but it was because he was acting for the show.
Live Street Journal reports that Justin also “smoked” weed for the show, but that wasn’t real either. Justin himself may have made a faux pas when he posted the picture on his Twitter account of the fabled scene.
After his hoaxed arrest, Justin was rumored to have died as well, since he was distraught about his incarceration. This was the second hoaxed report that happened to Justin Bieber in a short amount of time. Fans thought he had passed, since he hadn’t posted something on his Twitter account quickly enough. Eventually, he said that the plane ride was long, and he hadn’t had a chance to update his postings.
The Internet is a monster of a medium. Everyone with a cell phone is connected 24/7 and have instant access to any information that anyone can write about at any given time. Justin Bieber took his death and arrest rumors in stride and laughed about it. Hopefully, Chris Hansen can have some kind of statement that refutes the arrest rumor.
Hansen probably doesn’t even have to make a statement because the rumor has already been proved false. A publicist or lawyer for NBC will probably post some kind of one-page statement. Celebrities are smart. They need to downplay rumors such as this, which is why they have publicists, Twitter, Facebook, and their own websites to connect with fans.
Most celebrities don’t seem to have any difficulty with Internet rumors because it’s the larger media outlets and paparazzi that they need to worry about. Besides, one little person on the Internet isn’t worth much money in a lawsuit, as opposed to major media outlets.
Zap2It, the Post Chronicle, and Live Street Journal contributed information for this article.