Fake names lead to blame game
You have to wonder, in a city with such a huge Asian population and culture, how local TV station KTVU managed to broadcast the names of Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Bang Ding Ow and Ho Lee Fuk.
The four names were a prank but were broadcast in a jaw-dropping mistake by the station. What they thought was breaking news of the pilots' identities in the aftermath of the fatal crash of an Asiana airliner at San Francisco airport recently turned out to be a rather obvious racial joke.
Reports indicate that an intern at the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed the names to the station. It broadcast them breathlessly - leading to an even more asinine reaction from the airline, which said it would sue over damage to the company's image. Even if such a thing is possible, let's examine the leading cause of a loss of image in this instance: 1) three passengers killed, all teenaged girls, in the crash and 2) some dopey names, obviously a prank, broadcast by an equally dopey news station. Tough choice, huh?
The thing that really astounds is that KTVU let these names get to air. I mean, for Pete's sake, one in three people in San Francisco are Asian and they are expected to be the majority ethnic group, outnumbering Europeans, in years to come. The fake names above are also predominantly Chinese in nature, though the last (Mr Ho) could be mistaken for Korean as Lee is a common name there.
Even that, however, is unlikely. Warren Zevon's classic song, Werewolves Of London, contains the line that he saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand, looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook's ("gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein"). Get it? Chinese. Not Korean.
It's not beyond the realms of possibility that Chinese pilots could be flying a Korean plane but the ethnic derivation should also have been a big clue there was 'Sum Ting Wong.'
We can all be wise after the event. It's also not clear whether KTVU got the names elsewhere and asked the intern (who, not surprisingly, does not have a career with the NTSB any more) to confirm them or whether they were fed them by the intern and didn't pick up the joke.
Paul Lewis, Herald on Sunday sports editor