May 01, 2002
Scandal or hoax?

Matthew Yglesias and Glenn Kinen both point to this report by Alex Rubalcava about Alex Michel, the focal point of ABC's reality show The Bachelor. Rubalcava prints a series of "unconfirmed emails" in which Michel claims that he was pressured by ABC to pick underdog Amanda over Trista.

The emails started with a note from a member of the Harvard group Fly to Michel, a Harvard alum who was also in Fly. The current Fly member sent Michel's reply to friends of his but failed to remove Michel's address, so one of those people sent this note to Michel:

From: Locker, Jonathan Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2002 8:39 AM To: 'alex.michel@REMOVED Subject: The Bachelor

Alex, Jeffrey Sahrbeck was giving out your email address so I figured I would shoot you an email telling you how disappointed I was with your decision. Do you like fat girls or something? Amanda is nasty-- she is packing extra lbs all over the place. Trista is smoking hot AND she is a Heat dancer. Anyway, I lost a lot of faith in both you and the ABC network.
Regards, Jon

Michel replied as follows:

From: Michel Alex
Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2002 12:42 PM
To: Locker, Jonathan
Subject: RE: The Bachelor


Please do not email me anymore and tell Jeff that if I ever meet him, I will kick his ass for giving my address to all of his high school friends. Anyway, there is no doubt that Amanda is much fatter than Trista, but the producers made me pick the underdog. Don't worry, I bagged Trista.


I don't buy this for three reasons:

  1. It's ridiculously easy to forge email. The other two emails Rubalcava provides show the same time and date as these two - the first mail to Alex has the same time and date as the second, and the first reply from Alex has the same time and date as the second. Rubalcava offers no explanation for that, saying that's how they appeared in the mail as it was forwarded to him.

    I'm not worried about the synchronicity here as I am about the possibility that Rubalcava or the person who sent him these notes is faking the whole thing. I know a thing or two about SMTP mail protocols and email headers, and I know people who know a whole lot more about them than I do. Until I can see the full headers and show them to some pros I trust, I will remain skeptical about this. It's just too easy to be a joker.

    For reference on how to read email headers and determine what is real and what may be forged, see the following links:
    Pobox: How to Read Email Headers
    Pobox: Examples of Forged Headers
    StopSpam: Reading Email Headers
    Email Protocols: SMTP, MIME, POP & IMAP

  2. If Alex Michel is pissed enough to kick Jeff's ass for passing his email address on to people Alex doesn't know without his permission to do so, then why in the world is Alex insulting his bride-to-be and bragging that he "bagged" Trista to this total stranger? Is he that stupid and/or indiscreet? You'd think the networks might have learned something about background checks after the whole Rick Rockwell/Darva Conger thing. If it turns out this is genuine, I'd say that Alex's marriage to Amanda will make the Rockwell/Conger union look like Ward and June Cleaver.
  3. Any man who thinks that a 5'10" woman who weighs 130 pounds is "fat" is not living on Planet Earth.

That last one isn't really a valid objection to the possibility that all this is the truth, but it needed to be said anyway.

I don't mean to be harsh to Alex Rubalcava, who may have stumbled on a nifty little scandal here. I just don't believe this is anywhere near sufficient proof. Really, the people who have to come forward with the proof are Jeff Sahrbeck and Jonathan Locker. Forwarding Alex Michel's replies erases their original headers as far as the new recipient is concerned. Only those two, who purportedly have the originals, can prove that they're the real thing.

By the way, it may sound like an insulting question, but do we know for sure that "Jeffrey Sahrbeck, Harvard Fly 1999" is a real person? Don't scoff, many legends from multiply-forwarded emails have fallen because no evidence that the principals involved exist could be found. Go take a look through the Urban Legends Reference Page for plenty of examples.

For what it's worth, InstaPundit seems to accept Rubalcava's claim without question. Max Power doesn't. War Liberal is undecided but skeptical. Protein Wisdom is undecided but not as skeptical. I had no idea I was this far behind the commentary curve. The curse of a day job, I guess.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 01, 2002 to Skepticism