NEW YORK• Celebrity news site TMZ.com posted a headline in 2014 to draw readers around the world - a rapper affiliated with the celebrated Wu-Tang Clan had cut off his own penis.
Problem is, it named the wrong rapper.
Marques Johnson, a rapper who performs under the name Andre Roxx, has now filed a libel suit against the site, its parent Warner Brothers and other media outlets that quoted TMZ's report.
TMZ ran a story in April 2014 saying that Johnson had mutilated himself and jumped out of a window at a party in California in a suicide attempt, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday in a United States federal court in Delaware.
Later in the day, it revised the story and said the rapper in question was in fact Andre Johnson, who is also linked to the Wu-Tang Clan and goes by the stage name Christ Bearer.
But the lawsuit said the damage was already done, with the media around the world reporting the story and confusion reigning long afterwards.
The suit said the two rappers had little physical resemblance other than being African-American and played down the similarities in their real and stage names.
Marques Johnson, who like his counterpart was only in the outer circle of the sprawling Wu-Tang Clan, said in his suit that his career had been on the upswing but that, at the time of the report, he was serving a 16-month prison sentence in Pennsylvania on charges he did not reveal.
"Plaintiff became aware of the story while watching a local news programme in the day room of prison, and also heard it broadcast on a local radio station," the lawsuit said.
Marques Johnson, who is seeking an unspecified amount in damages, said he began to face threats and attacks in prison and has been mocked even after his release.
The rapper has made "thousands" of inquiries to schedule gigs but "was told many times during these calls that it was too 'risky' to book him for a venue because of the publicity", the lawsuit said.
As for the rapper who did cut his penis, Andre Johnson said in an interview last year with VladTV that it was not completely severed. He said he was not trying to commit suicide but was high on drugs, depressed about child custody issues and had been influenced by reading about monks and vasectomies.
He voiced no regrets and boasted of a still active sex life.
"In the annals of history, I don't think you got anybody who ever did it. I might've made the biggest mistake ever in history. But I'm proud of that."