CNN Headline News within seconds of reporting Bush dead

ATLANTA -- CNN Headline News was about to report falsely the death of President Bush from his illness in Japan until a supervisor halted the bogus information just as the anchorman began reading his report, the network said Thursday.

Sven Haaroff, a CNN spokesman, said a man identifying himself as the president's physician called CNN's Atlanta newsroom just over 2 hours after the president was struck with intestinal flu during a state dinner in Tokyo.


The called said the president had died, Haaroff said.

'The call was referred to an editorial supervisor and wes determined to be a hoax,' Haaroff said.

However, although the information was not used by the main CNN channel, the advisory somehow reached the operation that produces CNN Headline News, which summarizes the hour's top stories twice an hour in 30-minute programs.

On the air, anchor Don Harrison said: 'This just in to CNN Headline News. And we say right off the bat, we have not confirmed this through any other source.'

At that point, a voice off camera said, 'No! Stop!'

Harrison then said: 'We are now getting a correction. We will not give you that story; it was regarding some rather tragic news involving President Bush. But updating that story, President Bush is reported resting comfortably.'


Haaroff said the Secret Service was notified. The New York Post Thursday said Garden City, Idaho, police arrested a man believed to have made the call and kept him in custody on a driver's license violation. He was not immediately identified.

Haaroff said he was not certain how the story, once killed by an editorial supervisor on the main channel, made its way to the anchor desk and was about to be read.

'Newsrooms are hectic places,' he said. 'You want to go to air with it.'

The person off camera who halted the report from being telecast almost certainly saved CNN great embarrassment. In connection with the wounding in 1981 of President Reagan and White House press secretary James Brady, ABC-TV had briefly reported that Brady had died. Once it learned Brady had survived, ABC quickly corrected the error.

CNN has two cable news outlets. It's chief network telecasts breaking news, sports and weather along with various features and public affairs programming. Headline News presents continuously updated 30-minute reports comprised of news, sports, weather and entertainment.

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