By Robert Rivard
Some people believe just about anything if it comes via e-mail.
That's why so many poor slobs troll Internet sites for cut-price Rolexes, "real photos" of Britney Spears in the buff or the latest potion that will increase a man's size and self-esteem.
One of the most imaginative scams goes like this: The wife of a deposed Ugandan minister seeks out greedy, gullible Americans willing to let their bank accounts be used to park a tidy $13 million. It gets takers.
Congressmen do not pay Social Security taxes and instead are the beneficiaries of millions of dollars in pension payments. That's found new life years after it first began to circulate.
Then there is the No. 1 urban legend, as measured by snopes.com, the Web site with the fitting slogan, "Rumor has it."
It's about San Antonio, the Express-News and Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington. I can almost recite it by heart, although it is curious how some senders feel compelled to touch up the original with their own inside understanding of events.
The New York Post fell for it and published the phony e-mail in its June 22 editions, and has yet to admit its blunder.
In brief, the e-mail is a call to action for conservative, pro-military minded readers to strike a blow against the supposedly anti-military, liberal media here in San Antonio. According to the e-mail, the Express-News ignored Washington's recent visit with wounded soldiers undergoing long-term treatment and rehabilitation at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston.
Washington attended a Purple Heart ceremony and then visited one of the two Fisher Houses. These facilities provide low-cost housing for family members who want to be close to their hospitalized sons and daughters, many of whom have suffered severe burns or the loss of a limb and require long-term care and rehabilitation.
A deeply moved Washington, the e-mail said, whipped out his checkbook on the spot and handed over a donation to construct a third, $1.5 million Fisher House, an extraordinary philanthropic gesture that the Express-News, unlike the local base newspaper, chose to ignore.
It gets worse. The e-mail notes that the newspaper did give front-page play to the anti-war views of Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin and Madonna. Some versions of the e-mail conclude with the somber note that Washington's son is a Marine serving in Iraq.
Even some of our local readers, whipped into a fury, are demanding an explanation.
Here are the facts:
Washington and his family came here on Dec. 17, 2004. The next morning's front page featured a lead photo of Washington comforting a wounded soldier. It appeared under the headline, "A star with heart." The Metro front was dominated by coverage of the event, with a story by staff writer Scott Huddleston and more photographs by staff photographer Kin Man Hui.
Months later, Washington sent the Fisher House organization an unsolicited "six-figure" donation that neither he nor the group's board want to say more about. If they had said more, you would have read about it in the Express-News.
Washington and his wife were moved by their visit, and they joined the Fisher House board. But he didn't whip out his checkbook and cover the $1.5 million cost. He wasn't even carrying a checkbook the day of his visit. After the gift spawned the misleading e-mail, both Stars and Stripes and Express-News columnist Ed Tijerina published accounts intended to set the record straight. That didn't slow down the conspiracy theorists.
It's also untrue that the aforementioned celebrities made Page 1 with their anti-war views. Penn won a mention in last year's Academy Awards roundup after he won the Oscar for best actor in "Mystic River." Madonna and Baldwin haven't made Page 1 since we invaded Iraq, period.
A million-dollar check for the troops from a handsome, Oscar-winning actor. A subsequent cover-up by the liberal media. Sounds like a movie to me.
A closing word to all who have circulated copies of the e-mail: You could do your friends and the Express-News a service by circulating the truth. How? E-mail this column.
Want to do more? Be like Denzel. Go to fisherhouse.org and make a donation. Make it a big enough check and the Express-News will write about it.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski