Mainstream Media Looks Absolutely Foolish After Falling for Fake Halloween Obesity Story

fake-halloween-letterIt’s usually not too difficult to find some way to make the “mainstream media” look like a bunch of fools.  Quality journalism has given way to outrageous headlines and media outlets rushing to break the story first instead of getting the story right. 

They’ll constantly seize on any story they think will bring them traffic by exploiting our need to often act like a lynch mob with torches and pitchforks when we read something that offends us.

A great example of this happened these last couple days when it seems that nearly every major media outlet and online blogger displayed complete outrage over a “story” that broke in North Dakota.  This so-called “story” was about a woman who said she was planning to hand out letters to overweight kids instead of candy on Halloween.  The letters would be in an envelope marked for the parents to read, and talked about how this woman thought the child was “moderately obese” and how the parents should “ration” their candy.

And holy hell, you’d have thought she was planning to dress up like Hitler to attend a Jewish Halloween festival.

Headlines like “Fat kids won’t get any Halloween candy” and stories about “fat shaming” flooded the internet based upon the news that one woman, out of over 300 million people in this country, planned to hand out this letter.

The media was “outraged.”  And apparently so were millions of Americans who read these stories.

There’s just one problem — the story was fake.  It was generated by Fargo, North Dakota’s own Y-94, a radio station known for pulling off pranks.  Hell, what sounds like the same woman called in to the same station last year talking about the need to move deer crossing signs so the deer would cross at intersections where there would be less likelihood of a crash with a vehicle.

In the rush to post some kind of shocking headline for cheap traffic, it seems not one of these media outlets thought to double check a story about Halloween — a day known for pranks.  Instead, they chose to run the “story” and get people worked up like a lynch mob out for blood over something that wasn’t true.

But the fact of the matter is, who cares?  Say this story was true, wouldn’t it have been this woman’s right to hand out these letters?  Have we devolved so much as a society that one woman out of over 300 million people would cause such a stir over something so trivial?  Not a public figure or anyone with any major influence over anything—just some random woman living in North Dakota.

Besides, childhood obesity is an epidemic.

The accusation that this woman would have been “fat shaming” is completely absurd as well.  Bloggers from all sorts of different outlets jumped at the chance to quote “professionals” about the dangers of a child’s self esteem being damaged if they were to read something like this inside their sack of candy.  Excuse me?  What happened to parents taking the time to look through their child’s candy before giving it to them?  The letter was supposedly going to be inside an envelope marked for parents.  But either way, it wasn’t real.  “Journalists” from around the country simply saw the opportunity to exploit this “story” for the sake of cheap traffic.  Maybe this fake woman would have been handing out these letters in an attempt to save lives?  Maybe she lost someone in her family due to obesity and she had sworn to do all she could to make people aware of an issue that is plaguing our nation?

It wasn’t as if the story was about some woman handing out condoms, birth control, drugs or alcohol—it was a letter (albeit somewhat presumptuous and crass) about a real epidemic plaguing our nation’s children.

But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this story was completely made up.

I guess what might have gotten people all worked up was the thought of some woman picking and choosing who she thought was obese.  And granted, judging another person’s appearance isn’t something I condone.  However, I wouldn’t be “outraged” because one woman took it upon herself to talk about childhood obesity during Halloween.  One woman out of hundreds of millions of people choosing to hand out some letters to parents instead of candy — that’s all this fake story was about to begin with.

Which is why I didn’t run the story.  First, it seemed highly suspicious.  Second, because it isn’t my business to judge what legal item someone decides to hand out for Halloween.  Hell, as a kid I remember getting raisins and fruit from some houses.  Isn’t that kind of the same thing?  One house telling random kids that they should eat healthier by giving them healthy treats?

And again, this woman wasn’t going out on a pulpit to preach something.  These would have been kids coming to her door.  While you might disagree with what this hoax said she was doing, isn’t that her right to do so?  That’s the thing about freedom, it gives people the right to do legal things we might disagree with.  People can’t say they love freedom only when it validates things they support, because then that’s not freedom.  Had the woman been doing something publicly, or illegal, that’s one thing—but she wouldn’t have been.  It would have been her handing out a letter at her private residence.

But even beyond the argument of whether or not this “woman” was right or wrong, the real issue lies with the fact that a whole host of “journalists,” websites and bloggers couldn’t help themselves but to jump on this “story.”  Their desperation to jump on a headline (without a shred of fact-checking behind it) that turned out to be fake, shows just how desperate some of these people are to publish anything for cheap traffic and website “hits.”  And the fact that many of us continue to play right into it by bringing out the pitchforks and torches on demand is, quite frankly, just sad.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • JoeBS

    Yes, I suppose their desperation DOES prove how desperate they are. LOL.

    • Jim D.

      Just check the facts before you run or belive any story in the news media, thats the point of the story. It was fake. Obesity and it’s problems is a whole other story.

      • King

        I agree that the fact that the story is fake seemed to be the main point of the story. However, Allen has made his reactions to “what if the story was true” a major point and there is where he started losing people. I don’t like the tone of this article.

      • Kingminnie

        Actually, the tone of the article regarding his reactions started to piss me off.

  • Dee Wright

    Damn, it’s a shame you lost your actual point in paragraph after paragraph defending someone’s right to be an asshole (I mean, seriously, “she may have lost someone to obesity so it’s a big deal to her”?). It must be nice to think fat shaming isn’t a thing (nice scare quotes on that, by the way), but guess what? It really is. And believe me, this wouldn’t be the only time a kid hears “OMG YOU’RE FAT YOU SHOULD LOSE WEIGHT”. If you don’t think kids should have candy for halloween because they don’t meet some arbitrary standard of skinniness, fine – then don’t hand out candy. It’s not hard. The reason people were pissed was because this violates the “don’t be a dick” rule in a major, major way.

    Protip, just because someone is skinny doesn’t mean they’re healthy, so this white knight “but it’s because I caaaaaaaaare” shit? Is just that. It’s a way to dress up judginess so people can feel better about themselves.

    • 65snake

      “The reason people were pissed was because this violates the “don’t be a dick” rule in a major, major way.”

    • Sam Brosenberg

      Why is it unacceptable to tell a fat person that they’re fat, and to stop eating candy? When I started putting on a lot of weight last year, eventually I became ashamed of my appearance and so I altered my behavior and started running and eating healthier to make my body look more the way I wanted it to.

      Sometimes people need to be told the hard truth, rather than being coddled and having their hands held and told that they’re perfect just the way they are, despite the fact that they’re going to have diabetes by the time they’re 30.

      People have different metabolic rates, and different body types, and even different standards of how they would want to look, but after a certain point a person is just fat, and maybe being told that to their face (which this theoretical woman didn’t even plan to do) will be the kick they need to change their habits.

      • Chefemilie

        Nobody needs to be told that they’re fat. They know.

      • PattiP

        So you think shaming a kid on Halloween is the way to do it? The outrage wasn’t having a conversation about obesity, the outrage to me was singling out children in front of their peers. You are an adult. Glad you got your weight under control. But remember, we are talking about young children not grown adults.

      • fnnkybutt

        As a fat person, I can tell you that I absolutely, positively, do not need your or anyone else to tell me the ‘hard truth’. It’s staring at me in every single mirror and photo.

      • Chomper Lomper Tawee

        Is that why you’re still fat? …….FYI I was in denial

      • fnnkybutt

        Nope. I’m fat because I like butter a little bit more than I like being thin. I don’t worry about it because I’m healthy, loved and love myself.

      • Chomper Lomper Tawee

        fnnkybutt I Love That!

      • aab1966

        What part of the “Don’t Be A Dick” rule do you not understand? People know when they’re fat. They don’t need you or any other busybody pointing out what they are already very painfully aware of. And I would think that as someone who claims to have had weight issues in the past, you would already know that.

      • Sherri G

        How does she know if that child is obese due to a thyroid condition or some other medical explanation? How does she know if that child is a vegetarian and plays hockey every weekend with his friends. How does she know?????? Does she have the right to stereotype every overweight kid?
        Kinda like labeling SNAP Recipients lazy and moochers when 74% are children, elderly, homeless, veterans, disabled and the working poor. Or labeling single moms struggling to care for their kids. You shame them when maybe they had been married, been through domestic violence and was trying their hardest working two jobs and only eating one meal a day to support their families… but politicians claim they have “poor work ethic”. Shameful to stereotype, whether true story or not.

      • jag0581

        So what your saying is we should tell the kids we think to be obese that they are fat and hope that it changes them for the better? Do you realize if you were to tell a kid they are fat they would feel very bad about themselves, hurt their self esteem and in some cases if they are made fun of at school because of it commit suicide because they feel worthless. I wonder maybe you didn’t hear what the saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” It is your right to not give out candy, give out apple slices (some houses do this.) Give out little halloween toys, you don’t have to give out candy if you don’t want, just don’t be a dick and give out a letter telling people they are fat and need to change because that letter could damage them for life.

      • Michael Brown

        There are respectful ways to give someone that news, and then there are asshole ways. I think we all know which is right and which is wrong.

      • Myob

        It’s called “mind your own f-ing business”.

      • Myob

        Because its none of your business.

      • Mindy

        You have no idea why someone’s body looks the way it does, and how that contributes to their health. I’m 250 lbs, yet I am stronger than most of the men my personal trainer trains. I knew kids that got fat because they were on steroids for a medical condition, or had a growth on their lymph node. That has nothing to do with what they eat, and they’re probably picked on by their peers enough as it is.

      • Austin Brenan

        I’ve been saying the same thing and receiving similar backlash. But might I add to your comment that this is Halloween so It is much more needed for kids to be told rather than adults which makes this case much more severe.

    • Austin Brenan

      Because Obese people do have an effect on others around them. Handicap shit, special attention specifically for obese people, less seats on a bus or an airplane. and I dare say food shortages. People are going to get lazier, and humanity is going to go to shit even faster. If someone wants to be fat, I don’t care, but to be ignorant and non-caring to the weight of children is just bullshit and selfish because they don’t know how it will affect them later in their lives, because it’s up to the parents to raise them right. Why the heck should obese kids get so much candy on Halloween when they already spend every other day like it’s Halloween? If you were a kid and talked smack on a woman for not giving you candy and instead a letter then it’s believable and can go pass, but if you’re an adult talking smack on this woman especially if your kid wasn’t even affected, is just plain stupid. Nothing against obese people, but it’s about time that it gets taken more seriously because this world’s going to shit. and filling it with more obese people is just going to make it worse. Rear your kids right people, not the lazy way.

      • Elisalu

        I beg to differ, my son is slightly over weight for his age but it is due to the medicines he has to take everyday for his health conditions and he hasn’t even eaten 1 piece of his Halloween candy yet. Judging anyone especially children without even knowing the facts is just plain ignorant and serves no use to anyone butyourself to make yourself seem superior.

      • Austin Brenan

        Of course there is an exception for other factors like medicine. I’m mostly talking about the people who are absolutely capable of choosing for their selves. Don’t assume I’m being ignorant when you don’t even know all the ‘facts.’

      • Reading your response above, I come away with the distinct impression that you are literally unable to comprehend the “Don’t be a Dick” rule, or you are attempting to incite. Of course, I leave out the third possibility which is; You just don’t give a crap about how others feel when you make such statements, which of course, places you directly back at the “Don’t be a Dick,” rule! So, which is it?

      • Austin Brenan

        To an extent I don’t care how others feel when I make such statements because it had to be said and I’ll gladly be the bearer of bad news if no one else is going to call out on it. Call me insensitive, but I am not a bad person. The “Don’t be a Dick” rule was all right many years ago, but that’s because parents actually reared kids right compared to today. Why should there be a “Don’t be a Dick” rule for Halloween when it’s allowed to pass out coal if you’ve been naughty for Christmas. The reason I “can’t comprehend the ‘Don’t be a Dick’ Rule,” is because there shouldn’t be one for the time being. If people care more about getting candy rather than getting AND GIVING presents, and actually enforce a “Don’t be a Dick” rule for Halloween and not Christmas is just sad and shows where priorities stand. In a way I am doing people a favor by speaking up about it, because the butthurt feelings certain people get from my comments are nothing in comparison to all the butthurt “fat” comments/jokes they will receive in their future. Understand me now, Doctor?

    • Rachel Hogan

      Theoretically, she wasn’t tell the kids to lose weight. She was telling the parents to check their children’s health. It’s presumptuous and self-righteous, but that doesn’t mean she would have been wrong.

  • stellacadente

    I did ask in several places why someone was handing out Halloween candy several days before Halloween, and wondered if this was something leftover from last year.

    And the point is not that this woman has or does not have the right to hand out these letters. Just because you can, does not mean you should. Anyone who tries to ruin ANY child’s holiday is just being a jerk.

    BTW, we actually did have a douchebag woman here in the Detroit area in 2008 refusing to give kids candy if she thought they or their parents supported Obama. This kind of mental illness is not unprecedented.

  • Dana

    You, sir, are a dick. That is all.

  • Dana

    To offer a slightly less peeved response, the reason so many people “fell for” this story is because this is the life of a fat person. You really do suffer from idiots telling you you’re overweight, as if you didn’t know already every time you looked in the mirror. You really are singled out for labeling as unhealthy despite all the skinny couch potatoes (yes, they exist) and chain-smokers and STD-ridden sex addicts out there. You really are mocked when the bullying gets to be too much and you try to fight back. This is the life of a fat person every single day, so this woman’s letter sounded totally credible.

    There’s a BAD HEALTH epidemic in this country. Only in some people does it manifest as fatness. From the way you sound, so eager to defend an imaginary woman’s right to be a rotten bully, you could use some better nutrition yourself. Well-nourished people don’t go around trying to elevate their station in life by kicking others when they’re down. But thanks for playing.

    • King

      I have read a lot of things on this site and have agreed with you. However, your lack of sensitivity just screams out in this article. It is one thing to chide us for falling for this….we do need to be careful in reacting to something this far out and not realizing that it might not be true. However, chiding us for having a problem with what the woman was allegedly doing is another issue entirely. I find your remarks totally lacking in sensitivity. Fat people already know that they are fat. Bullying and judging people is not okay. Frankly, you have lost a great deal of credibility with me.

      • King

        Sorry I meant to address Allen and not Dana.

    • Chomper Lomper Tawee

      Worldwide obesity has nearly doubled since 1980.
      In 2008, more than 1.4 billion adults, 20 and older, were
      overweight. Of these over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women
      were obese.
      35% of adults aged 20 and over were overweight in 2008, and 11% were obese.
      65% of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
      More than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2011.
      Obesity is preventable.

  • VagabondTravel

    I picked up on this being a fake from the outset, but started to second guess myself as, one after another, news media networks reported it as fact. I thought, “they can’t all be so stupid as to report a prank as fact.” Obviously they can be.

  • Kerri

    To make a generalized statement such as “mainstream media looks absolutely foolish” is very hypocritical of you. You are a blogger/website owner which makes you essentially “mainstream media.” I bet you couldn’t wait to see your traffic rise after you posted this, huh?

  • Aaron Childers

    If people really wanted to have am honest discussion about obesity they could start by asking why a salad cost 5 times as much as a double cheese burger at McDonalds. Not that Mickey ds is the place to go for a salad but it’s representative of our culture. Eating healthy is made into a subculture instead of something everybody should do.

    • Chomper Lomper Tawee

      It’s cheaper to eat healthy “factoring in all aspects”.

  • Pipercat

    You had me until you created this straw man based on a, what if. Everything past the eighth paragraph is nonsense because, it is based on nonsense. This didn’t happen so, any hypothetical argument created is also therefore, nonsense. No matter how many times you try to qualify the straw man. Moreover, you are engaging in the same sensationalism that you railed against in paragraphs one through eight. You shoulda stuck with the vapid media angle and taken what you could get with that alone…

  • Sedrick Roeshard Gilbert

    After seeing this story repeatedly all over TV and in the media for the past week, to much outrage, I wondered how it was known by those reporting that this woman was going to give the “letter” to obese kids on Halloween DAYS in advance? Did she send it out pre-Halloween? Sounded suspect form jump to me. So many are so easily distracted from REAL and TRUE issues by foolishness, nonsence, and lies! #SuckersAndFools #GetTheFactsFirst

  • Kingminnie

    Even though this was a hoax, I am curious from your article whether you are defending the actions of the woman or defending your own reaction to them.

    Additionally, for the record, a kid getting a letter calling them fat in front of their friends is NOT in any possible twisted way the same as getting raisins or fruit in their treat bag. I cannot emphasize that strongly enough.

  • Michael Brown

    I admit I fell for this story and thus my dander was up, but I can’t agree with your assertion that the woman — were the story true — had the right to be an asshole. Assuming for a moment this had been the real deal, her putting her time and efforts into socially-recognized ways to raise obesity awareness (such as your aforementioned dispensing of healthy treats, or working with child-health organizations) would have been far more elegant and respectful than withholding candy in lieu of a snarkily-written letter dispensing judgment over other people’s kids. I’m glad it turned out to be just a hoax, but sorry, Allen; although I agree with almost all of your posts, I can’t get behind this one.

  • christie

    I think the main point is, we need to fact check EVERYTHING we see, hear or read, folks. It is easy to jump on the bandwagon of any thing we have a stake or thought in. FACT CHECK! Every time! It is easy to write an article, type a letter and then attribute this to some party, majority, minority, race, gender or sexual preference as saying, when, in FACT, it was not that person, race, political party, etc. saying anything of the sort. I’m guilty, I did the same thing. I jumped this anonymous chubby kid hating hag of a person and she doesn’t even exist (well, I’m sure she does, but just not in real context to this article). I’ll try to do better. I hope we all do 🙂

  • GrowUp

    I find the comments on this article absolutely hilarious. It’s great how you all choose to cherry pick parts of the author’s response and tear into him while ignoring the full context of the situation. As he said, the fake letter was supposedly going to be handed out in an envelope MARKED FOR PARENTS. It’s not like this fake woman was going to scold the kids for being fat in front of their friends. Grow up. It’s amazing how somebody can write an article about our tendency to bring out the pitchforks and torches even before verifying a story is real, and then because of that they get the pitchforks and torches brought out against them because they stated the simple truth and gave their opinion. But by all means be outraged at the author of this article since he ruined your outrage over the fake woman.

    • Jerry lives

      Agree 100 percent. Glad somebody has some common sense in this thread.

  • Chomper Lomper Tawee

    Why is it okay to tell people they’re too skinny, but wrong to tell people they’re too fat?…

    • Cemetery Girl

      I think comments on a person’s body type shouldn’t happen, at least negative ones. Skinny comments are just as bad. All my kids are skinny, they come from a genetic line that produces thin people. They are active kids that inherited high metabolisms (which sadly will crash around 40.) I have had strangers ask me if they eat. I have had strangers ask if they’re sick (no, they get regular check-ups with their tall, naturally thin pediatrician, who is confident they are happy, healthy children.) I have received advice, unsolicited, on how to “put weight” on them, including a nurse that said to put butter, sour cream, mayonnaise (which I couldn’t do if I wanted because of their food allergy), and/or gravy on everything they eat, to vastly increase their empty calorie consumption. I ignored her helpful advice because I prefer my kids learn abt healthier eating and having they unhealthy in moderation

  • Fred

    Just read these comments and shake my head. Did you guys not absorb the article? IT WAS A F**KING HOAX, FOLKS!!!

  • grwurown

    OK. It was fake. If real, it doesn’t matter if someone actually did this with the plan of the note being MARKED FOR THE PARENTS TO READ, as a parent, I would have been outraged that someone would do this. Is it illegal? No. But why would it be OK? Maybe the alleged over weight child’s parents are fully aware of the condition the child is in and fully planned on “rationing what the child was given TO EAT after going through the candy.
    You can say we have become too sensitive and need to grow a spine. That is true. But we have also become a nation of nosey pricks and cunts that don’t seem to know when to STFU and mi d our own buisiness.
    If this was a real then why couldn’t the woman have handed out boxes or raisins? Or maybe granola bars? MY POINT is that people need to back off. There are so many rightous assholes out there and that is why this story flew across the world in record time.

  • Theresa Courtright

    This article is repetitive and even though the title implies shame on the media it’s more about judging, yes judging, the parents reaction. I say treating others as they themselves want to be treated should be an epidemic.

  • guest

    This is really hilarious. Why? Because you guys are here fighting amongst yourselves over someone that does NOT exist and about a story that does NOT exist.

  • StafCoyote

    Aside from burying the lede, which no self-respecting journalist should do, the author rather misses the point. In ridiculing the numerous commenters who weighed in to condemn such behavior, and in taking a rather sanctimonious tone about it, the author forgets that sometimes being fooled in a good cause is not entirely blameworthy. If commenters expressed the view that “fat shaming” violates the “don’t be an asshole” rule, they were standing up for a good cause and a better principle, taking a normative stand against bullying. Maybe being counted for and speaking out in a good cause, even if the catalyst for the speech in question was a prank, is not such a bad thing. I’m just not sure how progressive it is to, in effect, engage in shaming behaviors against those who spoke out against shaming behaviors. Uncle Tom’s Cabin may have been a work of fiction, but it helped catalyze the abolitionist movement. Sometimes even pranksters can help move forward a good work. What is just sad is the way the author suggests that to feel a sense of compassion and to express moral outrage makes one a chump.

  • buzzkillington

    I’m Fat and also a Dick, but I have that right. So FUCK YOU!!!!!