May 9, 2012

After publishing a false report about a dentist who pulled all of her ex-boyfriend’s teeth in revenge, a reporter for the Daily Mail’s website now says he’s unable to explain exactly where the story came from.

“I’ve drawn a bit of a blank,” MailOnline journalist Simon Tomlinson told, which has a look at how the hoax story spread far and wide. “The (Daily) Mail Foreign Service, which did the piece for the paper, is really just an umbrella term for copy put together from agencies. My news desk isn’t sure where exactly it came from.”

So it appears his byline was slapped on a story he had nothing to do with. A story that his editors seem to have no information about, that came from unnamed agencies, and was rewritten by … well, whom?

To call this strange is a massive understatement. MailOnline doesn’t seem to be able to explain how this story ended up on its website.

But I bet it did some boffo traffic!

From the report about the fake story:

News websites around the world ran the story last week about a woman in Poland named Anna Maćkowiak who took revenge on a man named Marek Olszewski when he turned up at her clinic complaining of toothache, days after dumping her for another woman.

Among the numerous U.S. news sites that picked up the story were Fox Newsthe Los Angeles Timesthe San Francisco ChronicleHuffington PostYahoo! NewsMSN, the New York Post, andThe New York Daily News. ( is a joint venture of Microsoft, which operates MSN, and Comcast.)

The story even included quotes from the scorned dentist and her toothless ex.

The report also notes that Polish media made fun of all the English-language outlets that reported the story as true.

Now that the tale has been debunked, we have yet to see all of the necessary corrections.

MailOnline’s story remained fully intact with the headline, “Dentist pulled out ALL boyfriend’s teeth after he dumped her (and new girlfriend leaves him because of his empty mouth),” for close to 24 hours after the story went online. The URL now goes to an error page.

No retraction, no mention of the fact that the site has no idea where the story came from or that it’s fake.

The Huffington Post has yet to correct its piece, and the same goes for The Daily Telegraph, New York Post, Fox News, etc. (The Los Angeles Times updated its post to reflect the report from, as did the New York Daily News.)

On the positive side of the ledger, the San Francisco Chronicle and Yahoo! News have both issued updates.

Update: Huffington Post added a retraction to the top of its story:

MSNBC reported today, May 9, that the dentist accused of drugging up her boyfriend and pulling his teeth out doesn’t exist. Cops in Wroclaw, Poland told the station that they hadn’t received word of such a crime, and a legal adviser for Poland’s Chamber of Physicians and Dentists said there is no dental practitioner named Anna Mackowiak.

A handful of respectable publications ran the story before it was aggregated. Still, we strive to make sure all the articles we publish are 100-percent accurate. We regret the error.

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Craig Silverman ( is an award-winning journalist and the founder of Regret the Error, a blog that reports on media errors and corrections, and trends…
Craig Silverman

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