Fact Check: Mississippi Man Named Jared Arnold NOT Legally Sold to Circus As a Baby; Judge Did NOT Say He Was Still Owned By Company

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fact Check: Mississippi Man Named Jared Arnold NOT Legally Sold to Circus As a Baby; Judge Did NOT Say He Was Still Owned By Company Fiction

Was a Mississippi man legally sold to a circus as a baby and did a court judge say he was "still owned by company"? No, that's not true: the story was made up by a Canadian entertainment website that makes a living by publishing fictional stories often involving weird crimes, bizarre sex acts or strange accidents. It is not real.

The story first appeared as an article (archived here) published by WorldNewsDailyReport on April 10, 2019, under the title "Mississippi man who was legally sold to Circus as a baby 'still owned by company' says court judge." It opened:

A Mississippi man who was sold to a traveling circus at the age of three in 1993 by his mother has been ordered by the court to pay back the sum of $1,2 million dollars before he can get his freedom back.

Jared Arnold, 28, was sold in 1993 to the owner of Circus Magicus, Todd Bentley, by his mother Tamara Lee Arnold.

The contract specified at the time that M. Bentley took legal ownership of Jared until his 21st birthday, after which he would have to pay all expenses for which Circus Magicus had taken care of and thus would be set free from his contract.

The man pictured with the story is actually Jayson McNeil, a witness in a 2011 murder trial:

The website World News Daily Report is a humor website specializing in posting hoaxes and made-up stories. The disclaimer on its 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.

On March 20, 2019, the site added a new header that included the slogan "Where facts don't matter" to make it clearer to casual visitors the published content is fictional:


The site often uses images stolen without attribution from real news websites, sometimes showing real people who have nothing to do with the story, for example here:

Woman Says Newborn Photo Stolen for Satirical Fake News Story

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.

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

A website that publishes hoaxes and made-up stories that are often widely shared and mistaken for news.

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

  Maarten Schenk

Maarten Schenk is the co-founder and COO/CTO of Lead Stories and an 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.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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