San Francisco news station KTVU is facing some deserved mocking today after reporting that the pilots on Asiana’s disastrous flight 214 were named Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow.
KTVU issued an apology and claimed those were the names given to them by the National Transportation Safety Board, where presumably other 13-year-olds are employed.
Later on Friday the NTSB released the following statement:
“The National Transportation Safety Board apologizes for inaccurate and offensive names that were mistakenly confirmed as those of the pilots of Asiana flight 214, which crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.
Earlier today, in response to an inquiry from a media outlet, a summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority when he erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew on the aircraft.
The NTSB does not release or confirm the names of crewmembers or people involved in transportation accidents to the media. We work hard to ensure that only appropriate factual information regarding an investigation is released and deeply regret today’s incident.
Appropriate actions will be taken to ensure that such a serious error is not repeated.”
This is an old name gag, usually referred to as the Heywood Jablome namegag. Probably the most famous of these are Bart Simpson’s prank calls to Moe’s Tavern in The Simpsons.
And this is not the first time the news media has fallen for something like this. Even CNN fell for it after Hurricane Katrina.
Bart Simpson prank calls Moe Szyslak.
UPDATE (18-Jul-2013): Asiana won’t sue the news station.
Asiana Airlines has dropped its threat to sue a local TV station for an on-air gaffe identifying the pilots in this month’s plane crash by racially offensive names, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Tip: Russell G.
UPDATE (25-Jul-2013): Three producers have been fired over this.
Sources tell us the fake names – which had been posted on the Internet at least two days before – came to the station via e-mail from an expert source who had provided information to the station in the past.
At Channel 2 and elsewhere, “People are overtaxed and have more responsibility sometimes than they can handle. And sometimes, in situations like this, terrible mistakes happen that are bigger than one person. It’s systemic.”