San Francisco Bay Area FOX affiliate KTVU-TV has apologized after erroneously reporting the names of four pilots aboard an Asiana Airlines jet that crashed at an area airport on Saturday.
The station, based in nearby Oakland, reported the names of four pilots aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 214 as Captain Sum Ting Wong (something wrong), Wi Tu Lo (we too low), Ho Lee Fuk (holy fuck, although this was mispronounced) and Bang Ding Ow (bang ding ow).
The Associated Press wire, which KTVU subscribes to, had correctly identified both pilots two days earlier as Lee Gang-guk and Lee Jeong-min.
KTVU reversed itself later in their noon newscast, adding that the names were confirmed by a National Transportation Safety Board official in Washington. That “official” was actually a summer intern with the NTSB, according to a statement issued by the agency. The statement went on to read that the NTSB does not confirm or release the names of passengers or crew involved in aviation incidents.
The station issued an apology on its website shortly after 1:00 p.m. local time, only to remove it and re-issue it two hours later.
“KTVU realized the names that aired were not accurate and issued an apology later in the newscast,” the statement read. “The correct names of the pilots in the cockpit were Lee Gang-guk and Lee Jeong-Min.”
“Nothing is more important to us than having the highest level of accuracy and integrity,” KTVU General Manager Tom Raponi wrote. Raponi said the station “took immediate action to apologize both in the newscast where the mistake occurred, as well as on our website and social media sites.”
Contrary to their statement, KTVU waited four hours before addressing the issue on their social media profiles. On Twitter, KTVU apologized for what it called a “hoax” and during the station’s 5:00 p.m. newscast anchor Frank Somerville echoed the apology that had been issued earlier in the day.
The gaffe comes several days after the station trumpeted its breaking news coverage of the plane crash, calling out rival KGO-TV in the process for failing to maneuver its helicopter over the scene in time.
“KTVU’s coverage was even picked up by the ABC National News – instead of their own affiliate (KGO),” the press release read. “The ABC National News repeatedly used aerial footage from KTVU NewsChopper 2 during their 30 minute Special Report. KGO didn’t hit the air with local coverage until 1:11pm – 58 minutes later than KTVU.”
KTVU said their coverage was “100% accurate” and prided themselves for delivering effective reporting “using our great sources and social media without putting a single piece of erroneous information on our air.”
When the station inaccurately reported the pilot names on Friday, KTVU producer Brad Belstock tweeted “Oh shit.” Belstock later deleted his Twitter account. Staffers at other television stations responded in a similar fashion to KTVU’s mistake.
“Unfuckingbelievable!” said a newsroom employee at a competing station. “They have been airing a tasteless promo about how they were first with everything. Add first in stupidity.”
The staff member, who did not want to be identified, said KTVU’s gaffe was the latest in a string of incidents by an organization once heralded as the ultimate news authority in the Bay Area.
“Serves them right for beating their chest about being the first station to report a tragic story where people died,” the staffer said. “They’re a laughing stock. A once proud outlet that’s, sadly, lost its way.”
The Asian American Journalists Association slammed KTVU in a statement released Fridy afternoon.
“We fail to understand how a television news station with such a vaunted reputation could have fallen victim to such juvenile antics,” the statement read.
The AAJA said it was “embarrassed for the anchor, who was as much a victim as KTVU’s viewers and KTVU’s hard-working staff,” but added that the station’s apology and response to the hoax was inadequate.
Asiana Flight 214 crashed upon landing at San Francisco International Airport. The plane, carrying 307 passengers and crew total, was being dismantled on Friday after a lengthy investigation by federal officials.
Two people were killed on Saturday from the crash; a third person died on Friday from injuries sustained in the crash. The cause of the incident has yet to be determined, but is widely thought to be pilot error.