Google’s Orrin Hatch Error Continues a Long Line of Celebrity Death Hoaxes

Orrin Hatch is not dead, despite what Google would have you believe.

Orrin Hatch is not dead, despite what Google would have you believe. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A lot of people say Republicans are dead inside, but Google took that a little too literally.

Last night Utah Senator Orrin Hatch took the search engine to task over a glitch that made it look like the lawmaker was dead.

When users searched Hatch’s name, the information box on the right side of the screen claimed he died on September 11, 2017.

Hatch is one of the oldest senators, and the 84-year-old is actually retiring at the end of his current term. But he is still very much alive.

As such, Hatch’s social media team took Google to task.

Google corrected the error within an hour of Hatch’s tweet—but that didn’t stop his team from trolling the tech giant.

So it’s definitely not time to write Hatch’s obituary. But other political death hoaxes have fooled the media over the years.

Just a few months ago, CBS erroneously published an obituary for former First Lady Barbara Bush two days before she actually died. Ironically the words “Do not publish” were in the headline.

Bush’s husband also prematurely met his maker on cable news.

In 1992, a man called CNN claiming to be George H.W. Bush’s personal physician. He claimed Bush had died after a fainting spell in Tokyo. The incident was nearly reported on air before station personnel realized it was a hoax.

And multiple news organizations reported that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords died during a 2011 shooting in Tucson, citing a false NPR story. In fact, the Reuters report about Giffords’ death is still online to this day.

These fake death notices have also become increasingly common in the entertainment industry, especially in the age of social media.

Earlier this week, reports of Mr. Bean and Johnny English actor Rowan Atkinson’s death surfaced online for the third time. And as with the other two hoaxes, the actor confirmed he was alive and well.

An online prank in 2009 involving the death of Jeff Goldblum fooled even the actor’s own mother. The same website which publicized that rumor made similar claims about Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise.

And in 2016, Jack Black’s band Tenacious D tweeted the actor and rock star was dead. It turned out the Twitter account had been hacked.

In some cases, one celebrity dying in real life has caused another to be pronounced dead prematurely.

After Paul Walker perished in a car crash in 2013, rumors abounded that Eddie Murphy was dead after a similar incident. The actor’s publicist simply responded that “Eddie Murphy has not died.”

All these stories send a clear message for news outlets and tech companies to continually check that the information published on their sites is accurate.

Because when it’s not, consumers (and sassy Senate social media accounts) will call you out on it.

Google’s Orrin Hatch Error Continues a Long Line of Celebrity Death Hoaxes