Hugh Hefner Dead? No, It's a Hoax!

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Via NBCToday.co, Dec. 28, 2014:

Hugh Hefner Passes Away at the Age of 88
Viral "news story" published on a fake NBC News website claims Hugh Hefner, the 88-year-old founder of Playboy magazine, has died at the age of 88. NBCToday.co (fake news website)

Description: Fake news / Hoax
Circulating since: Dec. 2014
Status: False (see details below)

Excerpt:
Via NBCToday.co, Dec. 28, 2014:

BREAKING: Playboy Tycoon Hugh Hefner Passes Away at Age of 88

Hugh Hefner, Founder and chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, was found dead of natural causes Sunday morning at his home, the Playboy Mansion, in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, according to Los Angeles police officer Jimmy N. Gardner. He was 88.

Police responded to a call around 9 a.m. PDT and confirmed Hefner's identity from other residents of the Playboy Mansion, Gardner said. Police are not releasing a more specific cause of death at this time. "We'll have to wait for an autopsy report for an official cause of death," said Gardner. "From what I have heard Mr. Hefner was in good health for an 88 year old man. With no signs of foul-play we are left to believe his death was of natural causes."

Hefner's long publication career first began as a copywriter for Esquire, which was cut short in 1952 after being denied a $5 raise. Less than a year later, after mortgaging his furniture and generating loans from everywhere from banks to even his mother, Hefner launched Playboy. The racy magazine was nearly a hit from its first issue published in December 1953, which featured Marilyn Monroe from her 1949 nude calendar shoot and sold over 50,000 copies.

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Analysis: How dubious is the above article claiming that Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner died in December 2014?

Let me count the ways:

1. Its source, an untitled website with the URL NBCToday.co, contains no other content and no contact information. The domain name was registered anonymously just five days before the article was published. NBCToday.co is not connected with NBC News or any other National Broadcasting Company property in any way.

2. The article is poorly written and badly in need of copy editing. No legitimate news organization would have published it.

3. Speaking of legitimate news organizations, as of December 29, 2014 — one day after the NBCToday.co article appeared — none had reported that Hefner was dead. In fact, several sources, including the ones linked below, had already debunked the false claim:

Snopes.com: The Death of Hef?
The Mirror: Hugh Hefner Is NOT Dead
The Independent: Hugh Hefner Is Not Dead
Fox News Radio: Hugh Hefner Alive at 88
HollywoodLife Daily: Hugh Hefner Dead?

4. As each of those sources pointed out, Hefner himself was actually among the first to disprove the rumor by retweeting a family photo taken at roughly the same time the hoax was unleashed on the evening of December 28.

5. Not only are celebrity death hoaxes extremely common on the Internet, Hugh Hefner has been the victim of similar pranks in the past. In July 2011, for example, stories circulated via the web and social media claiming that Hefner had succumbed to a heart attack. The reports were quickly proven false. "I'm happy to see how many people are pleased that I'm not dead," Hefner famously tweeted on that occasion. "I'm pleased too."

Sources and further reading:

BREAKING: Playboy Tycoon Hugh Hefner Passes Away at Age of 88
NBCToday.co (fake news website), 28 December 2014

Macaulay Culkin Found Dead at Age 34? It's a Hoax!
About.com: Urban Legends, 8 November 2014

Judd Nelson Death Report Is a Hoax
About.com: Urban Legends, 11 August 2014

Last updated 12/29/14