Here's a story of your government at work - when it's sleepwalking

I've been following the doings of government for nearly 40 years and I've never seen the likes of this.

The Fox affiliate in San Francisco, KTVU, was seeking confirmation of the names of the pilots from the Asiana plane crash so they called the National Transportation Safety Board. Ever gracious and wanting to be helpful to the media, the NTSB confirmed the names of the pilots for the TV station.

The TV station then went on air and listed the names of the pilots and crew as:

Captain Som Ting Wong

Ho Lee Fuk

Bang Ding Ow

Those are the names confirmed by an intern for the NTSB.


"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," the NTSB said in a statement released Friday night.

"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 agency said.

KTVU, San Francisco's Fox affiliate, broadcast the incorrect names of the pilots during its noon newscast on Friday, despite the fact that the names of the pilot and co-pilot, Lee Gang-guk and Lee Jeong-min, had already been released. The fake names were racially charged and phonetically offensive.

KTVU apologized during its 6 p.m. newscast.

"First of all, we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out," anchor Frank Somerville said, adding that the station also didn't ask the position of the person within the NTSB giving them the ultimately erroneous information.

The station also issued an apology on its website Friday evening.

"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," Tom Raponi, the station's vice president and general manager, said in a statement. A full explanation of how the station acquired the names is not yet available, although the station is now calling it a hoax.

Outrage was immediate across social media and among journalists, who were incredulous as to how the names could not have raised red flags before broadcast.

Yes, plenty of blame should fall on the TV station for incredibly lax standards. Forget sounding out the names phonetically. Ever hear of Google? A high school paper would have done a better job fact checking.

Next thing you know, we're going to hear that the sequester was to blame because the intern wouldn't have been there answering the phone if only the NTSB had more money. No matter. They can try to cover up their incompetence and lack of diligence all they want, it still won't excuse what happened.

Thomas Lifson adds:

KTVU has broadcast the Simpsons since the program first aired. It's obvious that Bart Simpson was the intern who gave the station the green light.

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