No, An Ed Sheeran Impersonator Is Not Tricking Churches In Ohio
News outlets worldwide have fallen for a fake story from a satire page about a man impersonating Ed Sheeran and performing concerts in exchange for sandwiches.
"We are a satire page. And no matter how many times we clearly state that we are a satire page, people still think things are real," Jasper, who runs the Portsmouth Ohio Official page on Facebook, told 10 daily.
That page shared a bizarre post on Tuesday featuring a mugshot-style photo of a man with orange hair.
"The fugitive task force is looking for Ronnie Williams Jr. of Sciotoville for fraud. He has convinced 3 local churches that he is Ed Sheeran and even went as far as performing The Shape Of You in front of Christ Community Church last Sunday," the post said.
"When the pastor was asked why he believed the real Ed Sheeran would perform for 35 dollars and a sandwich, he said he just assumed he had fallen on tough times. If you have any information as to Ronnie’s whereabouts, message us immediately."
It went quickly viral, and as of Thursday morning has attracted 40,000 shares, 24,000 likes and 18,000 comments. The story was picked up by various news outlets around the world, including Channel Nine's Today, which ran with the story on its program this morning.
The only problem? The 'Ed Sheeran impersonator' is totally fake.
Portsmouth Ohio Official is a satirical publication -- a fact it proudly and prominently displays on its Facebook page, its category being tagged as "satire/parody" -- and the photo used is not even of a man named Ronnie Williams.
The image is of a man arrested in the British city of Chester, near Liverpool, in September 2018 over drug possession charges.
He was sentenced to four years prison in January. The only tenuous link he has to Ed Sheeran? Various local news publications reported his arrest and sentence as being for possessing 'Class A' drugs -- the topic of one of Sheeran's most popular songs.
The Today hosts acknowledged their flub later in Thursday's show, admitting "it turns out it was a fake news story all along. We did fall for this one. It was from a satirical news site."
"Portsmouth Ohio official is a news and entertainment satire web publication. This page is for entertainment purposes only," reads a description on the Portsmouth Ohio Official Facebook page.
Other posts recently published on the Facebook page include political memes, jokes about Billie Eilish and James Franco, and a meme of an elderly woman with Juggalo face paint with the text "if medical marijuanas is safe then why did it turn mom into a Juggalo?" and "vote NO on legalized marinara".
The owner of the page -- who gave his name as Jasper, and said they do indeed live in Portsmouth, Ohio -- said it wasn't the first time one of their jokes had fooled mainstream media outlets.
"We once ran a fake story about [country music singer] Travis Tritt that Fox News ran as a real story. The gullibility of American news outlets seems to know no bounds," they said.
When asked if people should take more care in what they read and believe on the internet, the page's owner initially joked: "No, I think that people should get all of their news from memes and then vote based on that news."
They then added, "Of course I think people should be more careful what people believe on the internet lol."
So no -- there's not an Ed Sheeran impostor performing in Ohio for sandwiches.