On November 10 2019, a story about a hotel cleaner stealing a millionaire guest’s used condom to covertly impregnate herself and receive millions of dollars in child support was shared by the Facebook page “Waploaded.com Media”:
The claim was also shared to Reddit’s r/nottheonion (a sub devoted to supposedly real and weird stories which were explicitly not satirical):
Immediately, a few things about the claim stuck out. One was that it was shared as a screenshot of a purported article, without a link to any news stories. Another was that a cursory Google search led to stories primarily published outside the United States, when the hotel cleaner child support hustle supposedly occurred in Las Vegas. Such a story would be as viral stateside as globally, but no one in the United States appeared to be interested in reporting it.
Iterations were shared to many sites based in Africa, and to forums such as Lipstick Alley — never with any indication the claim was satirical in nature. All iterations included the same graphic (a woman and an unwrapped condom), but no identifying details or surnames.
In its apparent first iteration, the claim was shared by the site ihlayanews.com on November 9 2019. That site claimed:
A 40-year-old Las Vegas hotel cleaner won a child support battle against a 28-year-old millionaire who she never slept with.
Jane was 36 when she stole a used condom from a then 24-year-old tech millionaire’s hotel garbage can.
She inserted the semen inside her vagina and became pregnant with a baby boy who is now 4-years-old.
During the child support hearing, Jane confessed that she never slept with the young millionaire and that she impregnated herself with his sperm while she was cleaning his room.
“He left his bank statement on the nightstand in his hotel room and I saw it when I was cleaning, at the time I wanted a baby so bad and I thought it would be better if I had a baby with a rich man”
According to that report, the woman (“Jane”) was awarded $2 million for three years of the child’s life prior to the purported child support suit’s filing. Ihlaya News added that the woman started a business with her “newfound fortune.”
Ihlaya News’ header has faint text reading “nuusparodie waarvan jy hou,” which was translated by Africa Check:
“Ihlaya News” roughly translates, from isiZulu, as “crazy person news”. The site’s tagline is “nuusparodie waarvan jy hou” — Afrikaans for “news parody that you like”.
When Ihlaya News (“crazy person news”) published “Hotel cleaner who stole sperm from a used condom won child support battle” on November 9 2019, faint “satire” signifiers appeared on that first iteration. When numerous outlets in Africa shared it, those details were stripped away, as was the case with screenshots of the “news” on Facebook. However, the claim originated on an openly satirical site.