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TV Anchor Duped into Airing Obviously Fake Pilot Names is a Teachable Moment

TV Anchor Duped into Airing Obviously Fake Pilot Names is a Teachable Moment

I spent the better part of yesterday late afternoon sharing this video on social media and it’s making the rounds this morning (h/t to NowThisNews where I first caught it yesterday).  So you may have seen it by now, but I bring it to your attention here as a reminder of something slightly more serious.

A news anchor with television station KTVU in California was duped into reading off the names of several purported pilots from Asiana Flight 214, which crash landed on a San Francisco runway on July 6th, killing three and injuring over 180 passengers.

The “pilot names” were so painfully obviously fake, it’s hard to believe that this segment ever made it to air.  I mean, with names like “Captain Sum Ting Wong” and “Ho Lee Fuk” – really?

The worst part about it is that the TV station did at least try to do some legwork and reached out to the National Transportation Safety Board for verification.  The NTSB confirmed the names.

KTVU later aired a correction and apology.

So did the NTSB, which blamed the error on a summer intern who “acted outside the scope of his authority.”  Of course.

The names were thought offensive by some, when you consider the endless speculation over whether or not culture played any role in the crash.  And some argue that it was insensitive to victims of the crash.  Others view the stunt as simply being funny.

Folks can have the “I’m offended” versus “C’mon it was funny” side debate, but that’s not why I bring the story to your attention.

This stunt is yet another illustration of just how easy it is to punk the media these days, to bait them into airing or publishing something that is inaccurate.  And as I’ve written here before about hacking and hijacking the news and injecting hoaxes into the news cycle, the potential exists for more nefarious people to use the media to do far more malicious things.

And I’m talking about more than just what outlets like MSNBC pass off as “news” on any given day.

While funny to many, offensive to others, I think this stunt is a teachable moment here.  Just as white hat hackers break their way into company systems to find companies’ security flaws and embarrass them when the companies don’t take steps to correct it, so soon will be our broken news outlets and government agencies if they don’t get with the program and clean up their acts.


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The problem is one of verification v. the 24 hour news cycle and the desire to get on top of it. It obviously exists with the media, both legacy and new, but it’s more troubling when it comes to politicians rushing to judgment and making statements without knowing everything or upon hypotheticals with only the slimmest connection to reality. Think, “if I had a son, he’d look like . . .” Much mischief comes from the rush to speak without taking sufficient time to reflect upon what’s to be said.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Shermlaw. | July 13, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    If the pilots had been black, and the intern made up names like “Dontavious Jackson” or “Tyrone Brown”, the intern would probably be facing trial….for something….anything.

    Hank in reply to Shermlaw. | July 13, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Rumor has it the producer’s name was: Luking Fo Wuk

Juba Doobai! | July 13, 2013 at 11:42 am

Mandy, these are all plausible Cantonese names. Heck, I even know a girl whose first name s Ou, pronounced OW. However, they are not plausible Korean names.

Funny as heck, yeah. Even more funny is the gravity and unreflective earnestness of the person reading the news. She just didn’t think. Just like Barack Obama will read whatever’s put in front of him, and he’s made some doozies doing that.

Punking the media? Definitely. That was a great part of the humor, too, cuz these are the people who love to tell us Conservatives are stupid.

However, all of that notwithstanding, there is a certain amount of cultural ignorance. We have lots of Koreans in America, but lots of folks can’t distinguish between Korean and Chinese names. That’s

Juba Doobai! | July 13, 2013 at 11:44 am

okay. The problem is that KTVU wanted to be first, and didn’t read or think in their burning desire to be first. If someone had, they wouldn’t have needed to verify anything. They’d have seen they were being punked,

(Somehow I hit submit before finishing before.)

    That is exactly right. It is the rush to break the story that leads to the mistake. Which is part of the reason why it is funny.

    KitsapJay in reply to Juba Doobai!. | July 13, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Why would it matter to the listeners who the pilots from a country far, far away were. It is doubtful anyone would know them. But in the rush for news to fill airtime they ran with it. I heard they went thru pronunciation of the names so they wouldn’t have a FAA bad word said. When I saw the graphic first I went by the second one that “this is a prank”.

    I wonder how brilliant the news reader feels today.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to KitsapJay. | July 13, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      I actually feel a bit sorry for her. Given what passes for education these days, it’s a wonder she even reads at all.

      One would think the station would have an editor or proofreader looking at that stuff before giving it to the newsreader.

      KTVU channel 2 is and Oakland-San Francisco station, located in Jack London Square in Oakland. It’s been around practically since TV was invented. I’m sure it’s now packed with a bunch of libtard elistists like all the media down there is, so……tough. They got punked.

It is a bit insensitive (I would not mention it to a grieving family member) but it is funny and all sorts of tragic events are followed by jokes. And it does show what dumbasses the media can be.

    TeacherinTejas in reply to EBL. | July 13, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Yes, we can allow ourselves some laughter on this and similar events. With all due respect to the two dead, most people escaped. Now, had this been a much higher death toll we would not be making jokes or laughing at jokes about it.

    Funny, as we watched the news I looked over at my Filipina wife and shrugged, “Asian drivers.”

    I stopped saying that when I found about the two young girls who had died.

      Juba Doobai! in reply to TeacherinTejas. | July 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm

      Laughter after a tragedy s often the human way of saying: I’m still alive. Are you still alive? So we laugh to prevent ourselves from crying.

Bruce Armstrong | July 13, 2013 at 11:51 am

The lesson here is simple: Journalists, do your damn job right, and you won’t be punked like KTVU was. A local TV reporter here in Fresno, CA, told me that at her station, at least three different people would have to review information like that before it got on the air: (1) the reporter who gathered it, (2) the technician who prepared the graphic, and (3) the anchor prior to reading it. Any of those three could and should have raised a red flag, but they didn’t, because getting the lead on their competition was more important than verification.

Carol Herman | July 13, 2013 at 11:53 am

Names of stewardesses: Ding Dang Dong, and Wei Tu Fun He

    Juba Doobai! in reply to Carol Herman. | July 13, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Wei Tu Fun He wouldn’t pass muster. Wei Fun He would. It’s rare that a Chinese name would have four syllables. Three is the norm.

>>”This stunt is yet another illustration…

…of how gobsmackingly stupid these people are. The stupidest people walking the face of the earth today are in the media. This is not an exaggeration. Theirs is a special brand of stupid but stupid nonetheless. Look at the faces of dumb-beast stupidity in an Obama press conference. Frightening.

So this got past the “smart” people who explain things to us rubes?

TeacherinTejas | July 13, 2013 at 11:58 am

I understand the intern was later revealed to be Hugh Jass, who ran that story past supervisor Pat McGroin and the final editor was Jack Mahoggoff.

The names of the flight crew is rarely released until the final report comes out. The station thought they had a good leak so some bored producer called 1-800-ASK-NTSB and quizzed whoever picked up the phone if these names were correct, said thanks and then rushed it to air. For a news outlet to get sucker punched this easily is really laughable. This is such an obvious high school prank it is pathetic and just shows the state of public education. My condolences to the easily offended.

    raven in reply to OldNuc. | July 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    “This is such an obvious high school prank it is pathetic and just shows the state of public education.”


nordic_prince | July 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Being married to a Korean, I would have to agree that this type of thing is insensitive, to say the least. (And no, these are not even plausible Korean names.) But then again, it’s usually open season for making fun of Asians, pretty much like it is for whites. Any other non-white ethnic group has to be handled with kid gloves and absolutely must not be discriminated against, but the PC police turn a blind eye to all the crap and discrimination (hello, restrictive higher-ed quotas) that the Asians have to deal with on a daily basis.

BTW, where’s Luke Hand Cool been lately? 😉

    Juba Doobai! in reply to nordic_prince. | July 13, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Nobody was making fun of Asians. Somebody was laughing in the LSM’s face.

    Comedy is rarely ever sensitive. Take my husband, please!

      TeacherinTejas in reply to Juba Doobai!. | July 13, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Surely you can’t be serious?

      nordic_prince in reply to Juba Doobai!. | July 13, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      So you’re saying it’s okay to poke fun at the LSM at the expense of Asians? Okay, got it –

      Still, that reasoning wouldn’t fly for any other “protected” minority, and I suspect you know that ~

        Juba Doobai! in reply to nordic_prince. | July 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm

        Dude, it’s okay to poke fun at the LSM at anybody’s expense. We can’t go through life joyless and without laughter. You want to laugh at blacks, go ahead. If the joke is funny, I’ll be ROFLMAO right along with you. If it’s not funny, I’ll give it a Bronx cheer. What I’m not going to do is get my panties in a twist about being politically correct about anything, I grieve with the parents of the three girls who lost their lives cuz they likely lost their one and only child. Nevertheless, I’m not going to play the anti-free-speech games the Left does, toss in race and grievance, and get worked up into an offended snit.

          nordic_prince in reply to Juba Doobai!. | July 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm

          If we were discussing satire, I would be more inclined to agree with you. However, this is not satire, this is not Hollywood – this was a real event, with real deaths and real life-changing injuries. As such, I think it’s more than a little crass to be poking fun at anyone’s expense. It has little to do with fear of offending the PC police (although double standards galore exist) and everything to do with human decency.

          Perhaps you’re confusing this with gallows humor, but that’s an entirely different critter.

        JackRussellTerrierist in reply to nordic_prince. | July 13, 2013 at 6:11 pm

        Oh, geez, lighten up. We don’t need anymore Perpetually Offended libtards whining about some minor prank. No harm, no foul. Get over it.

        Michiguy in reply to nordic_prince. | July 14, 2013 at 12:39 am

        NP, my parents came from China*, I am fluent in Mandarin and all that (so no “banana” comments from anyone), and I think it’s funny as hell. I have no idea whether the original prankster is anti-Asian or not, and in this context I don’t particularly care. The whole point is it revealed (yet again, but in an over-the-top way that even ignorant fools couldn’t miss) how poorly much of the news media does its job.

        That said, your point about how east-Asians are and aren’t minorities is very well taken. We’re minorities when employers want to trot out how many colored folks they have in technical positions, say, and when the local school system wants to show how many minorities are in AP classes or are going on to college. But we are less than white (meaning active efforts to keep the yellow hordes out — oh this applies to Indians and Pakistanis as well) when it comes to college admissions. On top of that, we tend to get a lot of crap from 24/7 minorities. I have never figured out if it’s because of the need to have another group to pick on, or because we belie the narrative that Discrimination and White Oppression are the sole reason for failure on the part of the self-proclaimed victims.

        *Oh, BTW, I’m not Chinese-American, nor am I that horrid term Asian-American. I am a goddamn American, period. All that hyphenation really gets up my nose. It does no good and only serves to divide us.

TeacherinTejas | July 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Surely, you can’t be serious?

I dunno why everyone is blaming the station, they confirmed it with official NTSB spokesman Mike Hunt. What more do you want them to do?

What struck me as particularly baffling about this incident is the fact that this tv station is in San Francisco – a city with perhaps that highest per capita number of Asians, especially Chinese, in the U.S. How could anyone there have missed the painfully obvious fact that this was a prank?

    Phillep Harding in reply to swlip. | July 13, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    The people of the news media just don’t mix with anyone not of their ethnic group.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to swlip. | July 13, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    It’s actually across the bay in Oakland at Jack London Square, not that it’s important.

    I’m guessing most of the Chinese watch channel 26, the Chinese station. I don’t know what Koreans would watch. Anyway, most all of them are hard-working people with more important things to do than whine about this silliness.

    Danny Leong in reply to swlip. | July 13, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Chinese tend to regard the Korean culture as a weird version of their own, so the names here wound’t be so obviously fake to someone from a Chinese background. If it looks Chinese but isn’t, then it must be either Korean or Vietnamese–that’s sort of the thinking process.

Phillep Harding | July 13, 2013 at 12:38 pm

“Back in the day”, a Juneau radio station DJ read off the weather report “clear and sunny” when it was pouring down rain. He had a corner work area with huge windows. He did not bother to say “Hey, wait a minute.” The people who passed him the weather forecast at least worked in a windowless dungeon, but they had to park out in the rain.

Some local pot growers used to get a real laugh out of the reported “street value” of pot in a bust, especially since the reporters reading the news were known pot smokers.

No, the news media does not pay attention to reality. Nor do some “experts”.

    madshark in reply to Phillep Harding. | July 13, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Reading your post reminded me of a record (remember those?) that I purchase many years ago with TV and radio bloopers. One of them had to do with a radio station in Alaska and the weather report. Not sure what was intended, whether it was to look or to peek, but he ended up saying, “To see what the weather is like, let’s take a leak outside the window.”

No, the lesson here is that the media is alot dumber than we thought.

Their recent foray into gun control is a good example. Anyone remember how they confused a sling keeper with a mount for a grenade launcher? Ignorant and arrogant.

    PaterNovem in reply to Fen. | July 13, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Dumb could perhaps be excused. I mean, you can’t fix stupid. But combine that with being chronically lazy and you have people reading Sum Ting Wong on a “news” broadcast.

These news readers are hired because they are pleasant to look at on TV, not because they are smart. She was pleasant to look at while she reading those names so she was doing the job she was hired for. The only problem is when they think they were hired for anything other than their appearance and attempt reasoned analysis of newsworthy events.

There is a reason Helen Thomas was a print journalist and not a classically trained highly professional teleprompter reader on TV.

She is blonde, am I correct?

    Juba Doobai! in reply to JP. | July 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    You’re killin’ me, JP.

    Now NordicPrince is gonna come down on you about this. I betcha Megyn Kelly or Greta van Susteren or Gretchen Carlson wouldn’t have made this gaffe.

      nordic_prince in reply to Juba Doobai!. | July 13, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      Glad to see you’ve got me all “figured out.” Yup, I’m just a colorless, humorless person who can’t appreciate any stereotype jokes whatsoever.


      “Blonde” and other stereotype jokes generally aren’t predicated on real-life events, with real-life suffering, though….

      Big difference.

        Darkstar58 in reply to nordic_prince. | July 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm

        When are jokes appropriate then?

        Because, correct me if I’m wrong, but we hear “too soon!/?” quite often with regards to people who have recently passed.

        Case in point, remember Amy Schumer at the Charlie Sheen roast? “I’m sorry for the loss of your friend Ryan Dunn. I know you were thinking, ‘It could have been me,’ and I know we were all thinking ‘Why wasn’t it?'”

        So this makes me question, why is this situation off limits when endless others aren’t, OR do you feel most all humor is inappropriate since it may relate and/or remind of real life situations people went thru?

        I mean sure, I bet tree huggers like Sonny Bono might not like such humor, and maybe Mama Cass will have a hard time swallowing the insensitivity, but a guy like Richard Prior will surely sniff out a joke to be had

        breakn70 in reply to nordic_prince. | July 15, 2013 at 7:11 pm

        Hilarious, especially how she chose to pronounce Ho Lee Fuk. Lighten up n_p. It’s about the self important media not about the deceased passengers.

      Keeeeyyyrist, don’t sic them on me. On second thought.. Well OK, do. But they are married. 🙂

      The still shot of this ummm, lady, yeah lady IS..
      the Duh-Luk-Me. Eees-No-So? <das illeg immi grun.

    Mister Natural in reply to JP. | July 15, 2013 at 8:53 am

    i’m betting the “Collar and cuffs” don’t match

I am embarrassed to say it is irreverent, insensitive, sophomoric, and the most rotflmao-ingly funny thing I’ve seen since the 1970’s SNL. Perhaps we should coin IABS-ROTFLMAO. Incredibly Ashamed But Still Rolling On The . . .

    Juba Doobai! in reply to Mark30339. | July 13, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Since Benny Hill, man, since Benny Hill. I agree with you but I’d drop the IA cuz I’ve been ROFLMAO since I saw the pic early this Saturday morning, my time. The utter seriousness on the face of the anchor was priceless.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | July 13, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I learned about this story this morning when I clicked on memeorandum and this was at the top of the page.

Within seconds of seeing all the links to the stories I said to myself, “I guess the affiliate is not owned by Fox”. I drew that conclusion because none of the links referenced Fox in the headline. Think Progress, Talking Points Memo, others in the leftsphere and probably even some “mainstream” media outlets would not miss an opportunity to smear Fox.

But just to confirm, I went to my Google machine and I started typing in the search box the words “is KTVU”. Before I could complete what I wanted to search for, the Google autofill algorithm took over and suggested “is KTVU fox” as the first suggestion. So that tells me enough people have already been searching for that phrase to bring it to the top of the autofill algorithm suggestions.

I still haven’t confirmed whether it is a Fox affiliate or not, but I’m pretty sure my initial gut instinct that it is not a Fox affiliate is correct.

Isn’t Al Sharpton just one big hoax?

And for that matter, MSNBC is as well.

Funny as hell, but one of hundreds of local news programs getting pranked hardly translates into a “teachable moment.”


Emil de Blatz | July 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm

I love a good hoax, and I was expecting that in the aftermath of the crash, at least one of Howard Stern’s fans (as Fire/Rescue Capt. Don Schoonover, or FAA Vice Director Bert Weesil) would get some air time and then drop the tell-tale “Baba Booey” reference.

I was watching the search for JFK, Jr.’s plane off Martha’s Vineyard back in 1999, and was viewing live as Peter Jennings was pimped by a Stern fan, posing as a Coast Guard commander. The caller spewed a lot of plausible jargon about the ships and aircraft deployed, the units involved, the airfields they were flying out of, etc. About 2 minutes in he mentions that “Baba Booey is on the scene”, and it sails right past Jennings, who completes another minute of the conversation, thanks the guest and goes on to more coverage. He comes back from the commercial break to announce that they may have been conned. I loved it!

These people are fools, automatons like the character Ron Burgundy who will read whatever appears on the teleprompter in front of them, with no critical reasoning skills, or much knowledge on which to question it. They should be mocked like this regularly.

Herbie Versmells could not be reached for comment…

That news commentator now known as Eee Gon Phaz

At least to me, this is the equivalent of publicizing the law firm of Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe. . . . .

or noting that my Dentist’s name is Dr. Payne. . . (really!). . . I’m not trying to mock an entire racial group — just noting a funny crossing of word meanings.

All this really does is just point out the different structure of language between English and the various far east dialects.

Can anyone find our Editor Mr. Hunt? Has anyone seen Mike Hunt?

kentuckyliz | July 13, 2013 at 3:10 pm

About eight minutes before George Zimmerman said he would not take the stand and testify, I tweeted:

BREAKING: George #Zimmerman will not testify #ZimmermanTrial #news

Then I listened for when he actually said it. Eight minutes later, there were thousands of RT’s BEFORE he said he wouldn’t testify.

I was testing out newsjacking and it worked. It was a true story but I didn’t know until he said so. I scooped the media and George Zimmmerman himself!

Ho Lee Fuk!!

These news people are idiots!
Did they make it past second grade?

I feel sorry for the intern at NTSB who lost his/her job by “confirming” the names.

There are at least even odds that the kid answered the phone, heard the phony names, and thought it was a prank and said, “Yeah, right, that’s them.”

That anyone whose job is fact-checking could read those names out loud on the phone and not figure out it was a hoax just underlines the unreliability of so-called “mainstream” media these days. Decades of cost-cutting has resulted in the closing of most bureaus, and the vaunted “editors and fact-checkers” have also been laid off for the most part.

Most media outlets rely on AP or Drudge for their news now. Accuracy isn’t in the top five concerns for a story for broadcast.

Henry Hawkins | July 13, 2013 at 5:17 pm

If those really were the true names of the pilots, someone needed to decide it would be in bad taste to air them because they coincidentally translate into lowbrow hilarity in English.

The #1 problem with media is EGO. Only the media gives a damn that they got the story out first. Only the media gives a damn that their interview was exclusive. I know I couldn’t care less about these details.

Wi Tu Lo! Ha!!!

Carol Herman | July 13, 2013 at 5:50 pm

When you get paid to read the teleprompter, that’s what you do.

When you get paid to sight read music, as part of wht you do when you’re in a band, that’s what you do.

When the music director doesn’t see that you and a cheer leading flag twirler are going to end up in the same spot … what you do is exaggerate the walking part. So the band director notices the snafu.

Here? We got to learn, yet again, that HOW you look on TV is more important than the words you’re just reading on the fly.

Glad it happened. Not that I watch TV news. But REDDIT posted this “mistake” up high. And, I’m glad to see it here, too. (I think Drudge also gave it a mention in his headlines.)

News is news.

It’s all an elaborate publicity stunt for Anchor Man 2.

Comedy gold

TeacherinTejas | July 13, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I thought something was fishy here. Originally I thought that Ho Lee Fuk was the author of a book on the Asian Population Explosion I read years ago, but I was in error. That was Wee Fuk Em Yung.

It’s being reported that Asiana airlines is considering sueing NTSB and KTVU TV station over the “damage to their reputation”

[…] covered the whole ordeal here at Legal […]

[…] since California TV station KTVU erroneously aired the fake names of four pilots falsely purported to be those of Asiana Flight 214, the story has gone viral and left many […]