On the same day Asiana Airlines announced that a third victim of the July 6 crash had died, some idiotic person with access to the Bay Area Fox (of course) affiliate KTVU teleprompter thought it would be a hoot to post fake names of the doomed Flight 214 pilots, names the news anchor unwittingly read during the broadcast with no awareness that they were not only made up, but were, in fact, intended to be both racist and offensive. Oh, and ‘funny.’
Here are the names… if you listen to their phonetics you’ll get the “joke”:
“Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk” and “Bang Ding Ow”
Beyond the fact that whoever is responsible for this ‘prank’ was egregiously out-of-line from a professional standpoint, the insensitivity to those involved in this tragedy, as well as the racial offensiveness to members of the Asian community, are indefensible.
But KTVU had no choice but to defend… at least themselves. They initially got in touch with Gawker claiming that, while the names were clearly inaccurate, they had been confirmed by the NTSB:
EARLIER IN THE NEWSCAST WE GAVE SOME NAMES OF PILOTS INVOLVED IN THE ASIANA AIRLINES CRASH. THESE NAMES WERE NOT ACCURATE DESPITE AN N-T-S-B OFFICIAL IN WASHINGTON CONFIRMING THEM LATE THIS MORNING. WE APOLOGIZE FOR THIS ERROR.
Gawker, probably incredulous at the notion that the NTSB had anything to do with this blunder, then got in touch with the National Transportation Safety Board themselves:
NTSB Public Affairs Officer Peter Knudson just told Gawker that the NTSB’s policy is to never give out pilot names in these situations, which contradicts KTVU’s claims. “I don’t know who [KTVU] got that from, but we do not release names,” he said.
The station, however, was sticking to their story. In an apology posted on their website, they maintained the NTSB’s involvement. From KTVU’s statement:
Prior to air, the names were confirmed by an NTSB official in the agency’s Washington, D.C. office. Despite that confirmation, KTVU realized the names that aired were not accurate and issued an apology later in the newscast.
The correct names of the pilots in the cockpit were Lee Gang-guk and Lee Jeong-Min.
“We sincerely regret the error and took immediate action to apologize, both in the newscast where the mistake occurred, as well as on our website and social media sites,” said Tom Raponi, KTVU/KICU Vice President & General Manager. “Nothing is more important to us than having the highest level of accuracy and integrity, and we are reviewing our procedures to ensure this type of error does not happen again.”
So they apologized for being too dense to realize the utterly crass and racist nature of the names before the newscaster read them on-air, but they weren’t taking responsibility for the perpetrator in their midst who came up with the list in the first place. Turns out, that perpetrator had a collaborator. At least in terms of who confirmed (either wittingly or not) the “joke.” Hence, shortly after KTVU issued their apology, a chagrined NTSB did the same:
NTSB statement on erroneous confirmation of crew names
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.
I’d guess a certain summer intern is not going to have a good rest of the summer. And the ‘prankster’ at KTVU who came up with that “hilarious list of names” will likely be looking for another job… along with the inept producer who missed it all.
But from there, from the event itself, is the ongoing, never-ending, head-shaking, shoulder-sagging matter of racist stupidity. We are still, and sadly, having the same conversations about what’s funny and what’s casual racism; what’s ” being too politically correct” and what’s inappropriate and offensive; what’s being “oversensitive” and what’s just plain old RACISM.
When I wrote my story about Paula Deen and her “n-word” fiasco or Alec Baldwin and his “toxic little queen” hissy fit a few weeks back, I can’t tell you how many commenters brushed the matters aside, sniffing at me about being too politically correct or making “much ado about nothing.” In the case of Deen, I was accused of reverse racism, of having an “agenda” (yes… an “anti-racism” agenda) and talking about things we should all “just ignore.” With Baldwin’s homophobic slings and arrows, much the same was said, always with the admonishment to “not give attention to these things.”
Yes, because speaking up about casual or not-so-casual bigotry is just so NOT done, apparently.
Sorry, kids… not in my world. In my world you do speak up… LOUDLY. And in this case with KTVU, it’s about racist ignorance directed at the Asian community, a group which doesn’t always get the most attention when bigots take their well-aimed digs. This time, in the midst of the ongoing tragedy and the loss of another life, the outrage is palpable. Social media lit up with pushback from Asian Americans and others who found the matter offensive, followed by the equally (perhaps even more) offensive comments left by those who thought this was just HILARIOUS… followed by more rage at those commenters. A blogger named “Angry Asian Man” wrote:
Holy crap. This has to be one of the most epic broadcast news fails I’ve seen… and it’s racist as hell. Earlier today, Bay Area Fox affiliate KTVU reported the names of four pilots aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 214. Except KTVU got pranked, and the names they were reported were waaaay wrong…
Somebody immature idiot was messing with KTVU, and the geniuses working the story failed to catch it.
TwoThree people were killed, dozens seriously injured, and we’re making Asian name jokes. That is some fine journalism. [... ]
“Misidentified the pilots” and “not accurate” are really soft description of what actually happened. And none of this attempts to explain how such an epic failure of judgement and taste made it on the air. When KTVU says it’s “reviewing our procedures,” I hope that means “firing someone’s ass.”
On Facebook, response was fierce. Here’s just some:
“Seriously, people – before you post that Asiana airlines story as something “hi-larious” (or even add some made-up Chinese names of your own for extra fun!)… ask your Asian friends if they think it’s funny. Then, think about those three people who lost their lives that day. Still think it’s hysterical?”
“So wrong. And the fact that so many people are posting it as humor just shows that racism against Asians is still tolerated.”
“I just saw this posted and people just made even worse jokes. Racism lives and I am ashamed for so much of the human race.”
Those worse jokes? The people who think this is” hysterical”? Here are just a few of their comments posted online at Huff Po and Gawker:
“The four names tell the whole story of the landing. I’m usually unapologetically PC, but I’ll be right there with you laughing.”
“HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAA! This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a month–easily.”
“In his defense, the producer, Fu King Wong has apologized many times for his error.”
“I’m so torn here. Do not like racism. Do not like racist jokes. Do like mocking tragedy. But I like this. Fucking cognitive dissonance.”
“We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are – laughing our az zes off.”
No, we are not all “laughing our az zes off.” Not only is there nothing funny about racist humor, but another young girl died from that plane crash you’re all laughing about. She survived the crash only to be accidentally run over by a firetruck rushing to the scene, the driver unaware of her in the foam that had been sprayed around the area where she lay. She was 16. She was Chinese. Her name was Ye Meng Yuan.
Want to make fun of that too?