The 5 Most Outrageous Hoaxes
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
Perhaps the most malicious religious hoax in history, “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” is a book supposedly revealing a secret Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. It first appeared in Russia in 1905, and though the book has been completely discredited as a forgery, it is still in print and remains widely circulated. Many people have endorsed this religious hoax, including actor Mel Gibson, Adolf Hitler, and automaker Henry Ford, who in 1920 paid to have a half-million copies of the book published. [Religious Mysteries: 8 Alleged Relics of Jesus]
The Tawana Brawley Attack
In 1987 America was riveted by the tragic news story of a young black girl named Tawana Brawley, who said she had been gang-raped by six white men, including several police officers. Rev. Al Sharpton and others fanned racial tensions and accused police of a cover-up. The following year, after an extensive investigation (and revelations about contradictions in Brawley’s story), a grand jury concluded that the girl had hoaxed the incident. A New York prosecutor successfully sued both Brawley and Sharpton for defamation in a case whose racial legacy remains today.