Asiana Air Says It Will Sue Over Stupid News Program Broadcasting Offensive Joke Names Of Crash Pilots

from the damaged-whose-reputation? dept

By now you’ve probably already heard about how the local Fox affiliate here in the Bay Area of California last week broadcast what it apparently believed were the names of the four pilots on the Asiana Air plane that crashed on landing at San Franciso Airport a week ago.

Almost everyone I’ve spoken to about this is stunned that no one realized these were obviously fake, racist names. You could maybe see one of them getting through, but all four? And it’s not like this is in an area without a large Asian population. Nearly 25% of the population in this region is of Asian heritage. You’d think someone would have caught that these were fake before it went on air. But, no one did. If you haven’t seen the video of the newscaster reading out those names, it’s really quite incredible:

As you might imagine, KTVU quickly apologized, blaming the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) who it insisted had confirmed the names. At first the NTSB insisted that it had nothing to do with it, saying that “we do not release names” ever. However, a few hours later, the NTSB was forced to issue a statement apologizing, and saying that a summer intern, who was acting way, way, way outside the scope of his authority, had confirmed the names:

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.

Of course, the NTSB has also said that the names “originated” with KTVU and that the intern was “trying to be helpful.” Either way, the end result was pretty clear: KTVU (and, to some extent, the NTSB) were quickly mocked widely online.

I had figured the story would die down over the weekend but, apparently, Asiana Air is talking about potentially suing both KTVU and the NTSB over this incident, claiming that it harmed their reputation.

Asiana said Monday that it will sue a San Francisco TV station that damaged the airline’s reputation by using bogus and racially offensive names for four pilots on a plane that crashed earlier this month in San Francisco.

Yes, the use of those names was racist and offensive. And, yes, it was absolutely ridiculous that it made it on the air. But it’s almost as ridiculous to then file a lawsuit over such a thing. Asiana is going to have one hell of a time proving any “damage” to the airline’s reputation from that report, as opposed to, I don’t know, the actual crash landing. It seems that Asiana’s reputation is already hurt, but not because of any fake names, but rather for its inability to properly land an airplane.

The whole reason the names became a story was that basically everyone who didn’t work at KTVU knew they were fake and offensive names. No one actually thought that they were real. There was no damage done to Asiana from those names being used. The damage was to KTVU’s credibility (not to mention the credibility of whoever hires summer interns at the NTSB). KTVU and the NTSB have both apologized, and Asiana should focus on making sure its pilots can land their planes rather than suing over this.

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Companies: asiana air, ktvu

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Comments on “Asiana Air Says It Will Sue Over Stupid News Program Broadcasting Offensive Joke Names Of Crash Pilots”

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76 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Damn you got it first! No seriously the prank was goddamn hilarious and it highlights how the usual news outfits are not bastions of credibility in comparison to the rest of the web journalism.

What I find interesting is the amount of sensitivity on such jokes. I mean I joke with Italians and Portuguese and there are both in my family. I joke with black people and my girlfriend is black and I joke with Asians and I have very good oriental friends, one of them was born in Japan and currently lives here. If you think these names are offensive or racists before thinking they are damn funny then the prejudice is within yourself.

Also, to hell with politically correct humor.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s a matter of timing and location. The sooner it is, the fewer people will be amused, and more people offended by making jokes about a tragedy.

Likewise, put this on late night comedy, and people will hardly even blink, even if they think it’s a tasteless joke. Trick the news anchors into telling the joke it while claiming that the names are accurate as confirmed by the NTSB, then people take offense.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I understand what you are saying and the ones that lost someone dear may find the joke tasteless in their grief. This is normal and understandable. But generally humor does not intend to offend anybody. Even if I had relatives in that flight I’d most likely giggle seeing the prank. Even more with the news outfit falling for it that easily.

In any case there could be some disciplinary measure against the prankster alright as he/she messed with official statement and regardless of no harm done it should not happen (ie: the Govt must be always serious). But lawsuit? No need.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I wouldn’t say that generally humor does not intend to offend anybody. Plenty of humor is at the expense of others, or is intended to mock others. I would not be surprised if this joke was intended to offend Asiana Air, in which case, it succeeded. At the very least, it was made at the expense of Asiana Air, so it’s unsurprising they offended.

Yeah lawsuits are over the top when apologies have already been made, and appropriate punishment to the offenders presumably meted out.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Plenty of humor is at the expense of others

Most of it actually. Which doesn’t mean it has the intention of offending. I’d say that no apologies are owed for the humor itself but rather for making use of an official channel to deliver it. I’ve been the target of jokes in the past and I can say that some of the worst came from friends and I found them amusing. As a comparison let’s think of a KKK member making a joke about some black person and a black person making the same joke. I think it is pretty clear which one would be received as an offense.

Now suppose the black guy making a joke about a KKK member. Would it be offensive to you? I’m sure KKK would find it offensive. Who is in the right? I’m just tossing questions here to try to bring us to the point that it is very relative. There’s humor and there’s offense. I’m inclined to think somebody found it funny to link funny Asian-like names with the Asiana incident just for the lulz. As I said, often the prejudice is in our own minds.

We spend too much time worrying about loaded ethnic issues. Maybe if we left them in the past and laughed about each other the world would be a better place.

Now some loaded joke for you:

Do you know why the palms and the sole of the black people are white? Because God had them stay on all fours to paint them. Do you know why the arsehole of the white people is black? Because the ink was still fresh when God made them.

I am white. Should I feel offended? Or did I offend the black out there? (My partner is black mind you and I’ve told her this joke in a similar discussion). I find it innocuous (and particularly funny on the second part). Other might be outraged.

Food for thought.

TasMot (profile) says:

Too Bad You Can't Prove a Negative

because I’d like to see proof that no “person of Asian Descent” ever made a joke about a non-asian person. Start here which has a list of many slurs including ones that asians use for non asians: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_slurs. Somewhere I remeber a caution about throwing that first stone.

madasahatter (profile) says:

Old Gag

I have seen this prank pulled by someone at Heathrow about 15 years ago. At one point I had a recording of the announcement. What was hilarious was the fact no one apparently bothered to read the names until they had been had.

On the note of checking sources, why was the airline not asked to confirm the pilots’ names by the studio?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Old Gag

Either time constrictions of the news cycle:

Newsie 1: We’ve got to air this list of names today, before anyeone else gets a chance! Have we been able to get confirmation?

Newsie 2: The Asiana Air PR folks are still asleep at the moment, but we’ve gotten confirmation from the NTSB.

Newsie 1: Good, run it!

or they asked but got a no comment back without the list really being looked at:

Newsie 1: Excuse me, can you confirm this list of crew names for us?

Asiana Air PR: It is against our policy to confirm or deny the names of personnel involved in an accident.

Stuart Gray says:

What part was Racist?

I am not sure I understand.
Using Asian names that sound like american words that evoke humor is racist?
Is I.P. Freely racist against whites?
I thought they were just jokes. Nothing racist there Mike.
Try not to trip over all that politically correct crap you are dragging around to make that statement work.

It was not racist when “Wong Way” hit a US aircraft?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hainan_Island_incident

Anonymous Coward says:

The news station should be skewered by its audience for this, and I wonder why the government has interns speaking to the media on its behalf. Seems like if I ran a company or agency, I would want to protect its reputation a little better than that.

But I don’t think that the airline has a case. After seeing those names, people are either going to not notice the puns (meaning the airline is not harmed) or they are going to see that they are obviously a joke (which the news has every right to make, even if it is in bad taste.) People might believe ONE of those names, but all 4 together like that?

And even if some people thought those names were accurate, so what? How would the names of the pilots have anything to do with anything?

So, i don’t think the airline has much of a case. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a legitimate lawsuit that could be filed…

The ones who have a case are Sum Ting Wong and company. If there actually ARE any people (and especially pilots) by those names, then they have been defamed – severely – by falsely being associated with this crash.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The news station should be skewered by its audience for this, and I wonder why the government has interns speaking to the media on its behalf. Seems like if I ran a company or agency, I would want to protect its reputation a little better than that.

I agree about Channel 2 should be skewered. But in their defense, it looks like the guy gathering the news did attempt to get a second source for the story. But got burnt by both sources.

One thing to observe: they did name NTSB as one of the sources but not the other– presumably the “originating” source of the bad pun.

As for an interm, either NTSB didn’t go over the media policy with their interms or this particular interm didn’t pay attention– and “acted outside the scope of his authority” when he lied. The result will probably be a review of the media policy, a matter of HR review with the interm and prehaps a talk with the interm program with the college where this guy come from.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

But in their defense, it looks like the guy gathering the news did attempt to get a second source for the story.

That’s no defense. The names were obviously a prank. No second source was needed.

As for an interm, either NTSB didn’t go over the media policy with their interms or this particular interm didn’t pay attention

It seems much more likely that the intern was aware of the policy, but took advantage of the opportunity to help get the prank on the air, all the while snickering about how idiotic the news people are.

DB says:

My mental picture of this is a NTSB intern getting a phone call from a “news station”. Perhaps the intern there sounded like one of their friends, and they asked to confirm a few names. The NTSB intern, being brighter than a typical newsroom intern (and much brighter than an ‘on-air personality’) heard the names, assumed they were being punked, suppressed a snicker, and confirmed in the most formal language they could muster.

I did read a story where they identified the unfortunate intern, a Mr. H. Jablome. Haywood is likely to lose his job over a momentary lapse of judgement.

Wally (profile) says:

Ummm...no...just...no.

“Yes, the use of those names was racist and offensive. And, yes, it was absolutely ridiculous that it made it on the air. But it’s almost as ridiculous to then file a lawsuit over such a thing. Asiana is going to have one hell of a time proving any “damage” to the airline’s reputation from that report, as opposed to, I don’t know, the actual crash landing. It seems that Asiana’s reputation is already hurt, but not because of any fake names, but rather for its inability to properly land an airplane.”

Since when is it ever not lawful or offensive to remotely make racial comments like those made by the NTSB intern and since when is it not ever against the law to falsify an NTSB report.

First let’s talk about the NTSB intern’s actions.
He falsified the names of the pilots and posted those false names into federal records and official NTSB logs…which is a class 4 federal offense. Then, the NRSB not reviewing the intern’s work..which by federal law they are obligated to do.

This was blatantly racist and to be honest I’m disgusted by it.

Second, KTVU should have inquired the NTSB for the official names before they aired the names. Freedom of press is not protected when a media source does something or says something egregiously racial…even in editorial commentary.

They should both be sued and I hope they both get fined.

Anon says:

Re: Ummm...no...just...no.

Seriously, “it was the intern”? I’m sure some employee thought he was being punked and when the shit hit the fan, they blame some mythical intern… “It was, ummm… Heywood. Yeah, it was him.”

Anyone with a tenth of a brain would know this was a joke, so it’s not like it could be considered deliberate falsifying of a report.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ummm...no...just...no.

Hey Wally,

Here is a hint for you.

TRY READING THE FUKING ARTICLE.

First let’s talk about the NTSB intern’s actions.
He falsified the names of the pilots and posted those false names into federal records and official NTSB logs…

The intern only confirmed that the names were correct, the intern DID NOT supply the names.

Second, KTVU should have inquired the NTSB for the official names before they aired the names. Freedom of press is not protected when a media source does something or says something egregiously racial…even in editorial commentary.

They did contact the NTSB for confirmation and someone at the NTSB confirmed that they were the correct names.

You the sort of thin skinned nancy boy who will not be happy till all speech has to be moderated incase someone is offended. Do you understand what a joke is?

What was said may have been in bad taste, but was not racist.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Ummm...no...just...no.

Wally, just a few days ago, I pointed out that you have a habit of making statements that are just flat out wrong. You’ve done so again.

Since when is it ever not lawful or offensive to remotely make racial comments like those made by the NTSB intern and since when is it not ever against the law to falsify an NTSB report.

You should look at the First Amendment. Racist speech (as long as it doesn’t reach the level of “hate speech”) is lawful. It may be offensive and prove that the speaker is an ignorant idiot, but it is not illegal.

Second the NTSB internet did not make racial comments.

Third, no one falsified an NTSB report.

First let’s talk about the NTSB intern’s actions.
He falsified the names of the pilots and posted those false names into federal records and official NTSB logs…which is a class 4 federal offense. Then, the NRSB not reviewing the intern’s work..which by federal law they are obligated to do.

He did none of that. Seriously. You should read stuff before you comment. All he did was confirm the names when KTVU called.

This was blatantly racist and to be honest I’m disgusted by it.

Lots of people are disgusted by it, but he didn’t do what you claim he did.

Second, KTVU should have inquired the NTSB for the official names before they aired the names.

Um, that’s exactly what you did.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Ummm...no...just...no.

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.

Read that second paragraph in the statement from the NTSB….then take a CLOSER LOOK at the last sentence of the statement….that indicates that someone in the NTSB gave the KTVU those names over the phone. Maybe you should read about the Civil Rights Act…because apparently in your eyes, racism should be protected by the First amendment…even in journalism.

Second, racial slurs like the ones broadcasted are huge FCC violations concerning news reports.

“Lots of people are disgusted by it, but he didn’t do what you claim he did.”

Well let’s see, you are telling me this all was merely a joke by the NTSB intern correct? How could it not be done on purpose if those joke names were sent to KTVU. KTVU should be fined by the FCC for posting those as the real names of the pilots.

No matter how you look at it, it was racist Mike Mansick….and according to FCC rules and the Civil Rights Act….both KTVU and the NTSB should be in deep trouble over this.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Ummm...no...just...no.

racial slurs like the ones broadcasted are huge FCC violations concerning news reports

No, actually, they are not. I am not sure where you got this information, but it is incorrect.

you are telling me this all was merely a joke by the NTSB intern correct?

This, is unfortunately, where your reading comprehension seems to have fallen short. As noted in the article, the intern simply confirmed the names, someone at KTVU asked him if the captain’s name was “Sum Ting Wong” – they did not ask him what the captain’s name was. You can (and should) blame the intern for responding yes when asked this question, but he did not make up these names – he was probably more incompetant than nefarious.

Wally (profile) says:

“This, is unfortunately, where your reading comprehension seems to have fallen short. As noted in the article, the intern simply confirmed the names, someone at KTVU asked him if the captain’s name was “Sum Ting Wong” – they did not ask him what the captain’s name was. You can (and should) blame the intern for responding yes when asked this question, but he did not make up these names – he was probably more incompetant than nefarious.”

He was given those names by his superiors as the fact check….and KTVU took it and RAN WITH THEIR OWN JOKE…once again thanks for proving my point correct while trying to prove me wrong.

You missed this:
“No matter how you look at it, it was racist Mike Mansick….and according to FCC rules and the Civil Rights Act….both KTVU and the NTSB should be in deep trouble over this.”

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