Chain-Chain-Cheney of Fools

If you haven’t received the “Dick Cheney is going to resign” e-mail from a friend, near-acquaintance, or total stranger yet, sit tight. It’s only a matter of time. The e-mail, which alleges that Cheney is about to leave the Republican ticket because of a “trumped-up heart problem,” is spreading across the Net like a prairie fire.

The e-mail reads:

I just heard a rumor from a good source. The Republican party is feeling that Cheney is a liability on the ticket. There’s a rumor that a few weeks prior to the election in a desperate attempt to win, Cheney will resign because of a trumped-up heart problem or potential “threat to his health.” Then either John McCain or Colin Powell will be asked to come on the ticket and save the party. This move is afoot in top circles and to try to squelch it PLEASE send this letter to as many people as you can. If we get the rumor on the internet, they won’t be able to do their calculated move without repercussions.

The Village Voice’s James Ridgeway has written about it, as have Slate’s Scott Shuger and Mickey Kaus. But where did it come from?

Chatterbox collected dozens of copies of this e-mail, several of which seemed to originate from a message sent Friday, Sept. 22, from an AOL account. According to a search, this AOL account is used by Los AngelesMagazine food writer and celebrity chef Laurie Burrows Grad. For example, the index of writers lists the address as Grad’s.

Chatterbox sent mail to the AOL address asking if it was the original source of the Cheney chain mail. Yes, responded the writer, the mail started here. But the writer wouldn’t confirm or deny that she was celebrity chef Laurie Burrows Grad.

The writer did, however, refer Chatterbox to her “good source” for the rumor. This source also declined to be identified but said she heard the rumor “from a senior Capitol Hill staffer who would be the last person I know who would want to talk to anyone in the press.”

Bunk or not, the Cheney e-mail reads like an “urban legend” as outlined by the folks at The story 1) “appeared mysteriously”; 2) “makes good storytelling”; and 3) “contains elements of humor or horror (the horror often “punishes” someone who flouts society’s conventions).”

Many urban legends have some basis in truth. In the Cheney e-mail case, the scenario appears to have been invented by cartoonist Ruben Bolling, whose Aug. 12 Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon depicted a disheveled man being hauled away by men in suits after revealing the Bush-Powell “October Surprise” conspiracy.

What did Bolling know, and when did he know it?

“I think you came to the source. My fevered imagination,” Bolling said. “I’ll expect a visit from people with sunglasses soon.”