Fake News: 'Bionic Man' Lee Majors NOT Dead At 83; $6 Million NOT Left To Trump 2020

Fact Check

  • by: Ryan Cooper
Fake News: 'Bionic Man' Lee Majors NOT Dead At 83; $6 Million NOT Left To Trump 2020

Has the actor who played bionic man Steve Austin died and left $6 million to the Trump reelection campaign? No, that's not true: The former "Six Million Dollar Man" has not died and donated the amount that was used to "rebuild him" with bionic parts on the iconic 1970s television show.

The story is a work of fiction and originated on a liberal satire website that tries to mislead Trump supporters into sharing made up stories that are clearly marked as satire. Foreign-run fake news websites frequently copy articles from the site. The people liking and sharing these stories are enriching foreign website operators or a liberal from Maine via the ad revenue generated with the content, which is probably not what they expected or wanted.

The claim originated from an article published by Conservative Tears on December 22, 2019, titled "'Bionic Man' Lee Majors Dead At 83; $6 Million Left To Trump 2020" (archived here) which opened:

The man who gave us "The Fall Guy", "The Six Million Dollar Man" and countless other television and movie roles has left us after complications from a Penuma surgical procedure ended his life. He died peacefully while under anesthesia on the operating table, at the full age of 80.

Majors was best known for his casting as Steve Austin in the popular 70's television crime drama "The Six Million Dollar Man," about an accident victim who receives robotic body parts to give him super speed, strength, hearing, and vision. The popularity of this show launched the rest of his very successful career.

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

'Bionic Man' Lee Majors Dead At 83;$6 Million Left To Trump 2020

The man who gave us "The Fall Guy", "The Six Million Dollar Man" and countless other television and movie roles has left us after complications from a Penuma surgical proced...

The story is labeled in small print on the site as a "death hoax." Celebrity death hoaxes are a common form of "clickbait" because they entice people to click the story or share it with their friends. The post listed three different references to Majors' age. The headline said he is 83, the photo listed his birth year as 1937 (which would make him 82), and the article mentioned he is 80.

Majors' wife, Faith Majors, often posts on Twitter on behalf of her husband. A day after this hoax was published, she tweeted a Merry Christmas message urging fans to "stay bionic."

The Conservative Tears site is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites. Self-professed liberal troll Christopher Blair runs those sites. The Maine resident works alongside a loose confederation of friends and allies. Blair has been in a feud with fact-checking website Snopes, and he has also criticized other fact-checkers who labeled his work "fake news" instead of satire. In reaction, he has recently rebranded all his active websites and Facebook pages, so they carry prominent disclaimers everywhere.

Every site in the network has an about page that reads (in part):

About Satire
Before you complain and decide satire is synonymous with "comedy":

The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site's pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and satirical. See above if you're still having an issue with that satire thing.

Articles from Blair's sites frequently get copied by "real" fake news sites that often omit the satire disclaimer and any other hints the stories are fake. Blair has tried to get these sites shut down, but new ones keep cropping up.

Here is a video of Blair explaining how his process works:

If you are interested in learning more about Blair and the history of his sites, here is something to get you started:

The Ultimate Christopher Blair and America's Last Line of Defense Reading List | Lead Stories

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below. Yesterday Eli Saslow at the Washington Post wrote a fantastic article about Christopher Blair, a man from Maine who has been trolling conservatives and Trump supporters online for years and occasionally even made a living out of it.

If you see one of his stories on a site that does not contain a satire disclaimer, assume it is fake news. If you do see the satire disclaimer, it is, of course, also fake news.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalists to rank the reliability of websites, describes conservativetears.com as:

A hoax website that publishes false stories about celebrity deaths.

According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

We wrote about conservativetears.com before; here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

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  Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is the former Director of Programming at CNN International, where he helped shape the network's daily newscasts broadcast to more than 280 million households around the world. He was based at the network's Los Angeles Bureau. There, he managed the team responsible for a three-hour nightly program, Newsroom LA.

Formerly, he worked at the headquarters in Atlanta, and he spent four years at the London bureau. An award-winning producer, Cooper oversaw the network's Emmy Award-winning coverage of the uprising in Egypt in 2011. He also served as a supervising producer during much of the network's live reporting on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in 2006, for which CNN received an Edward R. Murrow Award.

Read more about or contact Ryan Cooper

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