A false rumor can destroy your reputation in a blink, especially if it goes viral online. Take it from rapper Marques Johnson a.k.a. Andre Roxx: After TMZ wrongly reported that he cut off his own penis, his music career—surprisingly—did not improve.
Johnson, who was part of the Wu-Tang Clan-affiliated group Killa Beez, is now suing TMZ over the article, which was published in April 2014. The gossip site reported a “rapper affiliated with Wu-Tang Clan was rushed to the hospital early Wednesday after he cut off his penis and then jumped off a second story balcony.” TMZ tagged Johnson in the original post before later correcting its mistake to identify the right guy — Christ Bearer.
The damage had already been done. “TMZ's original, inaccurate story immediately spread across the Internet and to television and radio news,” reads the complaint Johnson filed Wednesday. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the story was picked up by BET.com, USA Today, Extra, and New York Daily News, among others.
Even after TMZ corrected the mistake, the cat was out of the bag. iHeartMedia is also being sued because its radio station 100.3 The Beat reported, “O my! Wu Tang Affiliated Rapper Andre Roxx Jumps Off Balcony in Suicide Attempt.”
Johnson notes he was in prison when the story came out and he was left defenseless against the rumor mill. Worse, he was “forced to go into protective custody because other inmates began harassing him.” To compound things, Johnson says he was shunned by the music industry when he left prison in June 2015.
The strange thing is that if Johnson wins and wins big a la Hulk Hogan's suit against Gawker (another very penile trial), the TMZ snafu will land him perhaps his biggest payday ever.
We're not sure that will quite make up for having other prisoners harass you about rumors you made the unkindest cut, though. Prison is bad enough without living that down.