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Divorce after 62 years of fake deafness ‘to avoid listening to wife’? No, the story is satire

“Man faked being deaf and dumb for 62 years to avoid listening to his wife,” screamed the headline of a World News Daily Report article published on 4 March 2019.

Showing photos of an elderly couple, the story goes that “according to divorce papers” Barry Dawson (84) of Waterbury in the US state of Connecticut “never spoke a single word” in front of his wife Dorothy (80) “during the decades they lived together”.

She learned sign language, but soon “he began to have problems with his sight”.

Then Dorothy came across a YouTube video of Barry singing karaoke at a bar.

Popular on Facebook in Kenya

Within days of publication a screenshot of the story found its way onto social media. It’s been repeatedly posted on Facebook in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

A Kenyan comedian shared it with his 370,000 followers under the caption “My Hero”. That post has had more than 420 reactions and nearly 120 shares.

It’s also appeared on a Kenyan blog and was posted on one of the country’s popular Facebook groups.

Photos from 2017 story of billionaire couple divorce

But the photos of “Barry” and “Dorothy” were actually copied off a Palm Beach Post article from 13 July 2017.

It tells of Burt (88) and Lucille “Lovey” Handlesman (87), a billionaire couple from Florida in the US, who divorced after 67 years. The divorce related to money and infidelity – not faked deafness.

The news of their divorce was first published in the Daily Mail on 7 June 2016.

The photos were taken for the Palm Beach Post by Lannis Waters.

So which version is true?

Africa Check contacted the Palm Beach Post to find out more. According to the site’s data reporter Mike Stucka, the photos belong to the company and were wrongfully used for fake news.

“There's about 1,500 kilometres between our coverage area in Florida and Connecticut, where the fake article is from,” he said.

“However, those are our photos so I'll make sure our photo editor is aware of a copyright violation.”

‘Satirical content and fictional articles’

The World News Daily Report story has already been rated false by fact-checking sites Snopes, Hoax Alert and AFP Factcheck.

There’s another clue in the site’s footer.

“World News Daily Report assumes all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content,” it reads.

“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.”

Its other recent stories include Elderly woman accused of training her 65 cats to steal from neighbours and Colorado man claims he was held 2 weeks as a sex slave by a grizzly bear. – Dancan Bwire (26/03/2019)


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