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Asiana Airlines will sue KTVU over reporting error

Asiana Airlines says it will go ahead with a defamation lawsuit against a California television station that erroneously reported four perceived racist names as pilots aboard a plane that crashed in San Francisco.

On Monday, Asiana Airlines spokesman Na Chul-hee said the company had hired a U.S.-based law firm and would continue the process of suing Oakland-based FOX affiliate KTVU-TV for defamation.

Last week, KTVU erroneously reported the identities of the pilots aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 214 as Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow. Two days earlier, the Associated Press — which KTVU subscribes to — had correctly reported the names as Lee Gang-guk and Lee Jeong-min.

After the gaffe went viral, KTVU profusely apologized for the incident. At first, the station placed the blame with the National Transportation Safety Board, claiming that an official in Washington had confirmed the names. That “official” was actually college student Alex Fields-Lefkovic, a summer intern with the agency who “acted outside the scope of his authority” and was later released of his internship.

KTVU later said it took full responsibility for the incident in a revised statement published on its website.

The Desk emailed KTVU News Director Lee Rosenthal the night of the incident. Rosenthal responded by emailing a link to KTVU’s website. The Desk followed up with both Rosenthal and KTVU General Manager Tom Raponi seeking additional information. Those emails have gone unreturned.

KTVU may have anticipated a potential lawsuit from Asiana Airlines. According to San Francisco media journalist Rich Lieberman, KTVU’s parent company Cox Media Group has ordered an investigation into the matter.

The Desk reached out to a representative at Cox Media Group over the weekend. That representative said they were unaware of an investigation and would look into the matter.

Before the gaffe, KTVU had trumpeted its coverage on the Flight 214 crash as being “100% accurate,” adding that it was first in a variety of ways to cover the story.

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6 after landing short of a runway. Three people died as a result of the crash. The incident remains under investigation.

[Update: Asiana Airlines has reversed itself, now saying it will not sue KTVU over the gaffe.]

CNN: Asiana to proceed with lawsuit against TV station
Rich Lieberman: Cox orders investigation into KTVU gaffe

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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