On Friday July 6, Oakland CNN affiliate KTVU aired four erroneous names after confirming the information with the National Transportation Safety Board. But as it turns out, the names were racially insensitive puns.
While apologizing for the mistake, the NTSB blamed a summer intern for confirming the names before they were shown and read out loud live on TV. On Monday the NTSB announced the unnamed intern was "no longer with the agency."
“As we said in the statement, [the intern] acted outside the scope of his authority,” said Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the agency, in an interview. “He should not have even been addressing the [station’s] question in the first place, but he did. He made a very bad mistake and a bad judgment call, but it wasn’t a malicious thing. The news station read off a list of names to him [that] they said sounded right. And they shouldn’t have done that. And he shouldn’t have done that, but he did, and we’ve taken responsibility for it, and we’ve taken action to keep it from happening again.”
Asked if the intern was aware of the names' double meanings, Nantel said, "he did not know they were fake names. You’d have to ask the station where they got the names from. I don’t know.”
As for how a the list featuring the fake names reached the intern on the first place, a source told the Washington Post the names came from a "trusted source" who had provided the station with useful information in the past.
During an apology that aired Friday, KTVU admitted to having made "several mistakes" when they received the information.
“First, we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out. Then, during our phone call to the NTSB where the person confirmed the spellings of the names, we never asked that person to give us their position with the agency. We heard this person verify the information without questioning who they were and then rushed the names on our noon newscast.”
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