Want to see how a rumor spreads around the world?
Look no further than the case of Michael Schumacher, the Formula 1 racer hospitalized and in a coma since a December skiing accident.
Countless news outlets recently reported that Schumacher’s wife, Corinna, was spending almost $20 million installing a “medical suite” in their home so Schumacher could move out of the hospital.
Schumacher’s manager, Sabine Kehm, debunked the media reports as flat-out wrong.
Kehm said: “The rumours that Corinna remodels her house to bring the supposedly ‘hopeless case Michael’ home, are absolutely groundless.”
So how did this tale take off?
Numerous outlets credit UK publications, specifically the UK Mail or Sun, as the source of their news of the alleged medical suite. iMediaEthics couldn’t access the Sun’s article as it is behind a paywall so we don’t know if it credited a source.
However, the Mail‘s article doesn’t offer any actual evidence or attribution for its claim. The Mail wrote March 29:
“The wife of Michael Schumacher is reportedly spending £10million on building a fully equipped medical suite in their family home so her husband can leave the hospital.”
The closest thing offered by the Mail -and other outlets – as any actual evidence is an unnamed “family friend,” as far as iMediaEthics has seen.
The anonymous “family friend” allegedly told The UK Sun that “family are making arrangements for a future of permanent immobility.”
But, that doesn’t mean Schumacher’s wife was necessarily shelling out big bucks to spruce up the old home and move him away from a hospital.
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Fox Sports added a twist in its report on the claims of a new medical suite. Pointing to the Daily Mail‘s story, the Fox Sports story claimed, “Every day since his accident, Schumacher’s family has performed a 150 mile round-trip to be by his side. The Daily Mail reports that pressure for bed space may soon build at the Grenoble University Hospital in France, leading Schumacher’s family to make preparations to bring him home.”
Again, no original source was provided for this information. And worse, this statement about bed space was not even in the Daily Mail article when iMediaEthics read it April 4.
iMediaEthics has written to the hospital treating Schumacher for a response to Fox Sports’ claim. We’ll update with any additional information.
Media that spread the tale
- The UK Independent reported March 30 “Michael Schumacher’s wife building a $19 million medical suite in their home.”
- The International Business Times‘ March 29 story “Michael Schumacher’s Wife Plans to Take F1 Ace Home
- The Business Standard reported on the renovation claims, citing the Sun.
- Voice of Russia reported on the multimillion dollar plans, pointing to “the British media” for credit.
- Autoblog.com reported on the suite claims, listing to UK Yahoo Eurosport and the Daily Mail as sources.
- And Eurosport had no source for its claims about a medical suite
Controversies from the start
Many may recall that back in January, Schumacher’s manager reported that a journalist posed as a priest in an attempt to sneak into his hospital.
And, just last week, German weekly magazine Die Aktuelle put a photo of Schumacher and his wife on the cover with the headline “Aufgwacht!” (Awake!).
The magazine was criticized for tricking readers, as Schumacher is still in a coma and the magazine’s article, on the inside, was about other coma victims.