Fake News: Man Did NOT Suffer Heart Attack After Eating 21 Burritos, Did NOT Sue Taco Bell for $4M

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fake News: Man Did NOT Suffer Heart Attack After Eating 21 Burritos, Did NOT Sue Taco Bell for $4M

Did Eric James Johnson from Pasadena suffer a heart attack at a Taco Bell after eating too many burritos in a row? And is he now suing the restaurant chain for four million dollars? No, that did not really happen. The story was made up by a satire website from Canada.

It originated from an article published on March 28, 2018 on World News Daily Report which was titled "Man who suffered heart attack after eating 21 burritos in a row sues Taco Bell for $4M" (archived here). That article began:

A man from Pasadena has launched a multimillion-dollar lawsuit this morning against the American Fast food chain Taco Bell, whom he blames for causing a heart attack that almost killed him.

Eric James Johnson suffered a severe heart attack on February 16 while he was eating at a Taco Bell restaurant.

The man crumbled on the restaurant's floor after eating and remained unconscious until was rescued by paramedics.

Fortunately, he was rapidly transported to the hospital where he underwent twelve hours of surgery and was finally stabilized.

The 48-year old man had just eaten 12 beef burritos, 5 bean burritos, and 4 chili cheese burritos, as well as 5 beef quesadillas and a Mexican pizza.

But the photo that went with the story actually showed Peter Owens, an overweight criminal who got a shorter jail term in 2009 because his enormous bulk was too big of a health risk.

Too fat for justice: The 40st thug who will serve a shorter jail term because of his enormous bulk

A morbidly obese thug who attacked two men with a baseball bat was handed a lenient sentence because of his enormous size. Peter Owens, who weighs 40 stone, will serve just 15 months in jail after a judge ruled he was too fat and unhealthy to serve the full four years maximum.

The story looked quite convincing on social media, leading some people to think it was a real news item:

Man who suffered heart attack after eating 21 burritos in a row sues Taco Bell for $4M

A man from Pasadena has launched a multimillion-dollar lawsuit this morning against the American Fast food chain Taco Bell, whom he blames for causing a heart attack that almost killed him. Eric James Johnson suffered a severe heart attack on February 16 while he was eating at a Taco Bell restauran

We wrote about hoaxes from worldnewsdailyreport.com before, they publish stories like these all the time:

The website World News Daily Report is a well known satire website specialized in posting hoaxes and made up stories. The disclaimer on their website is pretty clear about that even though you have to scroll all the way down the page to find it:

World News Daily Report assumes all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website - even those based on real people - are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any person, living, dead or undead, is purely a miracle.

It is run by Janick Murray-Hall and Olivier Legault, who also run the satirical Journal de Mourréal, a satirical site spoofing the (real) Journal de Montéal. Very often their stories feature an image showing a random crazy mugshot found in a mugshot gallery on the internet or on a stock photo website superimposed over a background of flashing police lights or crime scene tape.

Articles from the site are frequently copied (sometimes even months or years later) by varous fake news websites that omit the satire disclaimer and present the information as real.

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  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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