At least three Democratic senators have been the targets of phony email reports of their deaths over the past few days, prompting the U.S. Capitol Police to open an investigation into the matter.
A mysterious jokester has been trying to fool news outlets into thinking that three more Democratic Senators have died. Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, and Frank Lautenberg deaths were announced over the past few days
Several California news outlets received e-mails from Feinstein's office saying she had died of cancer. The following day Vermont news outlets received bogus emails claiming Senator Leahy passed away in his sleep. They looked authentic and official said wtop.com. who posted the official or unofficial as it turned out, email on their web-site.
In each case, the fake announcements included phone numbers associated with the senator’s offices and the names of staff members. But in at least two of the cases, the staff members named were not the aides who normally send out news releases.
Frank Lautenberg, the senator from the state of New Jersey had the same joke played on the media outlets that his constituents watch and read on Monday. This came on the heels of Lautenberg's announcement last week that he was once again cancer-free and ready to get back to work in the Senate.
These three obituary notices followed the death and funeral of Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia who was being buried while these phony emails were flooding into news outlets throughout California and Washington.
The office of California Senator Dianne Feinstein denied the rumor Monday morning that the senator had died. Patrick Leahy proved his was alive and kicking when he sat for an interview with Vermont Public Radio's John Dillon.
Senator Patrick Leahy said in the interview that he has asked Capitol Police to investigate the hoax email that falsely reported that the senator had died. He also joked with Dillon about the situation. But he says it's a serious issue when someone spreads false information with a message that looks official. (read the text of that interview here)
Some thought that the timing couldn't have been worse with Sen. Byrd's recent death at the age of 92. Byrd was the longest serving member of the senate when he passed away. Some claim Byrd should have retired years earlier and his falling asleep during sessions of the senate has been mentioned often over the past week as testament to that claim.
The Senate also lost another powerhouse in Democrat Ted Kennedy who died at the age of 77 in August of 2009. Although the prankster meant these falsified obituaries as a joke no one in the Senate is laughing.
U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider stated that the police are looking into the hoaxes but declined to say how many there were or to provide any other details.
Leahy who was at home in Middlesex when the false alert was sent, said he's feeling good, and that he and his wife Marcelle made light of the premature obituary. "Well, Marcelle and I were kind of surprised to hear about this. And she said, ‘Does that mean I don't have to get dinner tonight?'
Sort of like the old Mark Twain thing said Leahy to Vermont Public Radio- "The news of my demise is greatly exaggerated."