SFGN investigation revealed news story to be fake
The Washington Post and Toronto Sun reported last week that a poll conducted by the Orange County Equality Project in Southern California found Britney Spears to be the gay community’s greatest gay icon with 31 percent of the vote.
But there’s one problem: It was a fake news story.
SFGN broke the story Saturday online.
After SFGN found the original source of the news piece online in an article written by Fernando Palazzo of Examiner.com SFGN contacted Palazzo for further information.
While waiting for a response SFGN checked the State of California’s corporation’s database and found no records of an Orange County Equality Project. Guidestar, a website database of nonprofits around the country, was also checked with no results. Nor did organization appear to have a website, phone number, Facebook or MySpace page.
Two days after the story was published online Palazzo finally e-mailed Publisher of SFGN, Norm Kent. But it still took multiple e-mails sent back and forth to Palazzo for him to finally reveal a website for the organization in question. It turns out the website is actually nothing more than a WordPress blog titled “Orange County Equality Project,” authored by a blogger named Joel Waddell. Waddell is the “source” of the Palazzo posting picked up by the mainstream media.
Before Palazzo’s response, SFGN had contacted the Orange County Equality Coalition, the GLBT National Help Center, and the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center of Orange County.
“Maybe you mean OCEC? Orange County Equality Coalition?” replied Executive Director of the Community Center Ginger Hahn.
The OCEC and Help Center also had never heard of the Orange County Equality Project.
According to Palazzo’s bio, which has since been removed, he wrote for the “Orange County Gay Culture” section on Examiner.com. His first article appeared on the website January 28.
Palazzo’s original article was also reported in his hometown Orange County paper, the OC Weekly, celebrity sites such as StarPulse.com and on international news websites, such as the TimesofIndia.com and PinkNews.co.uk.
SFGN has sent three e-mails to the Washington Post looking for a comment. They have yet to respond or remove the article from their website.
In Palazzo’s last e-mail to SFGN he claims he was the one duped by his friend Waddell and the Orange County Equality Project.
In that e-mail to Publisher Norm Kent, Palazzo admits, “I am going to write a blog entry about the scam and how I fell for it. I know who Joel Waddell is, but was never ‘great friends’ with him…I made an honest mistake….What about the people from the mainstream media who picked this up without even questioning the sources? They get PAID for sloppy journalism.”
Palazzo ended his note to SFGN writing, “I learned a big lesson and I guess I need to thank you instead of condemn you.”
On Monday he posted: “It has now come to my attention that this supposed organization may be the work of a one or more con artists and shouldn’t be trusted.”
In that same article he also writes that Joel Waddell is an acquaintance, but then adds, “If anyone has any more specific information about Joel Waddell or the Orange County Equality Project, please let me know.”