How to fake George Michael's death, and other tabloid lies

How is "fake news" constructed? This week's 'National Enquirer' gives us a shining example of how it's done.

Filling its cover is a somber photo of the late George Michael in repose, eyes closed, finally at peace.

"George Michael – The Last Photo!" screams the headline, below the shocking revelation: "Pop Icon's Suicide Note Found."

Those are two great exclusives. If only they were true.

The photo of the singer apparently lying in his casket was actually taken two months before his death. In the original photo he was standing, but the 'Enquirer' simply turned the image on its side. George Michael was blinking when the picture was taken – an image that would normally be discarded, but useful in this instance to give the impression that he was at his final rest.

As for his "suicide note," it doesn't exist.

"I'm going insane, and I know there's another way to do this," the 'Enquirer' claims he wrote in his alleged suicide note. "I swear to God it was like I had a curse on me."

The first line is actually an old quote made by the singer recalling his sadness after the death of his lover Anselmo Feleppa from an Aids-related illness, and then his beloved mother's demise, between 1994 to 1997.

In the same breath, Michael had said back then: "I'd have to be seriously mentally disturbed to even consider suicide because of what it would do to the people who were already devastated from losing my mother."

Michael's quote about feeling that he was laboring under a "curse" came from an interview he gave to 'The Guardian' in 2005 – not a suicide note as the 'Enquirer' claims.

But the 'Enquirer' gathered a selection of cherry-picked quotes about depression, which Michael had admitted battling through the nineties, and presented them to a "renowned psychiatric specialist" – I will omit her name to spare the guilty – who declared there were "suicidal tendencies" in the singer's tortured thoughts.

And that's how George Michael left a "suicide note" – hidden in a breadcrumb trail of interviews given decades ago.

It's something of a fake news feast in this week's 'Enquirer.' Did you notice those intercontinental ballistic missiles falling from the sky above your head? They're coming, promises the 'Enquirer,' under the headline: 'Bitter Obama Brings On World War III.' The Trump-loving publication blames President Obama's expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for Russian-sponsored hacking in America for bringing both nations "to the brink of World War III." Better duck and cover.

"Ellen DeGeneres' secret lesbian lover was murdered by the mob…" reports the 'Enquirer,' and I have to admit that's a great tabloid intro, even if the story appears as full of hot air as a soufflé, and falls flat once you realize that the accidental death of aspiring stand-up comedienne Kat Perkoff occurred in 1980, when her car hit a tree – not a classic murder weapon for the Mafia, who have traditionally preferred guns, knives, strangulation, drowning, burial in cement, and other more reliable time-tested methods of rubbing out enemies

Not to be out-done, this week's 'Globe' is rife with stories with tenuous connections to reality.
"Bill Divorcing Loser Hillary!" proclaims the magazine, repeating a story it has run in numerous variations over the past two decades. Maybe one of these days they'll be right, but it's hard to argue with the story's logic. Hillary Clinton, the 'Globe' claims, is "too fat for him!" Sounds like grounds for divorce right there.

"William & Kate Win The Throne!" declares a two-page headline in the 'Globe,' which yet again seems to forget that the British Royal succession is not a reality TV competition, but is actually decided by constitutional rules that determine that the Queen's heir, Prince Charles, is next in line. "Dying Queen thwarts Charles' palace coup," alleges the magazine, again missing the point that Charles succeeding to the throne would not be a "coup," but simply the inheritance he has awaited for all his 68 years.

The 'National Examiner' cover brings us "Tom Selleck's Brave Goodbye!" and the promise of "The Shocking Reason Why!" The 'Examiner' does everything in its power to make it sound as if the former 'Magnum PI' star is dying, whereas in fact he simply wants to end his successful run on TV series 'Blue Bloods.' The "shocking reason"? So that he can spend more time with his family in California. Shocking indeed.

More bizarre is the 'Examiner' report of a plot to kidnap Elvis Presley's body from his grave, and the warning to fans visiting his burial plot at Graceland: "The tomb may be empty!" The grave-robbing scheme is narrated by an unnamed "confidential informant" who reportedly acted as a go-between for the alleged grave-robber. The story eventually makes clear that the body-snatchers were thwarted by finding Presley's grave protected by police – but the informant adds a final twist: Elvis's casket held only a "wax figurine" because Elvis faked his death to escape Mafia mobsters who believed the singer was telling the FBI how he was smuggling cash for them on his private jet. "If Elvis ever shows up they're gonna kill him," says the informant. Well, you can't argue with a story with such impeccable sources, can you?

Fortunately we have 'Us' magazine's crack team of investigative reporters to tell us that Karlie Kloss wore it best, Sarah Hyland thinks that "doughnuts are amazing," actress Chrissy Metz keeps lipstick, keys and her iPhone in her Michael Kors tote, and that the stars are just like us: they ride bikes, play basketball, and get mani-pedis.

The loss of Debbie Reynolds and daughter Carrie Fisher occupy the tabloids – the 'Globe' tastefully blames Carrie's death on "a wild booze-and-drug binge" – and dominates the covers of the celebrity magazines. 'Us' magazine focuses on "Their unbreakable bond," while 'People' magazine notes that "they shared a mother-daughter bond like no other." All of which amounts to neither publication knowing what killed Fisher, whose initial autopsy results were "inconclusive."

Thankfully the 'Examiner' brings us news you can use, with a report that "Exorcisms are Soaring" in America, along with a handy guide on how to recognize "signs of demonic possession." Among the tell-tale clues: "speech that cannot be understood . . . predicting future events . . . shifts in voice or body appearance." Does that sound like any president-elect you can think of?

Onwards and downwards . . .