Asiana Airlines to sue KTVU over fake pilot names

Updated
The wreckage of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 is moved off site to a secure area away from the runway at San Francisco International Airport in San...
The wreckage of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 is moved off site to a secure area away from the runway at San Francisco International Airport in San...
John G. Mabanglo/EPA

Asiana Airlines said Monday that it will sue Bay-area television station KTVU-TV for reporting fake and racially offensive names for the four pilots manning Flight 214 that crashed at San Francisco International airport earlier this month.

“This legal action is being taken because of the KTVU report that not only disparaged Asians in general through the use of racially charged epithets, but also severely damaged the reputation of Asiana Airlines,” the company said in a statement.

The airline has decided to sue the station to ”strongly respond to its racially discriminatory report,” spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said. The airline said it had selected a U.S. law firm and will likely file suit in U.S. courts, she added.

During a noon newscast on Friday, a KTVU anchor read four names including “Capt. Sum Ting Wong” and “Wi Tu Lo” on the air and quickly apologized for the false report after the commercial break. The station issued a statement saying that an NTSB official in Washington had confirmed the names earlier Friday morning.

Related: KTVU reports fake racist names of Asiana Airlines 214 pilots from NTSB intern

Soon after the broadcast, video of the report became viral on the Internet, prompting another apology from the National Transportation Safety Board. “Accepting full responsibility for this mistake,” KTVU’s Frank Somerville issued another apology on-air and detailed the steps of their inaccurate reporting.

“We made several mistakes when we received this 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.”

The federal agency apologized, saying “a summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority” to confirm the names of the flight crew. “The National Transportation Safety Board apologizes for inaccurate and offensive names that were mistakenly confirmed as those of the pilots of Asiana flight 214, which crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6,” the statement read.

NBC News recently learned the NTSB intern who confirmed the fake names has been released and is no longer with the agency. Neither the station nor the NTSB has disclosed the origin of the names.

Asiana Airlines earlier that week identified the pilot and copilot of the flight as Lee Kang-Kuk and Lee Jung-Min. The airline has decided not to sue the NTSB saying the fault rested with the TV station’s erroneous reporting and not with the NTSB.

The station would not comment on the report or the lawsuit for msnbc.

The four pilots returned to South Korea on Saturday, after being questioned by a U.S. and South Korean joint investigation team in the U.S. South Korean officials also plan to conduct a four-week investigation with them starting Wednesday, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

The cause of Flight 214’s crash has not been determined.

The Boeing 777 caught fire after appearing to have touched down short of the runway, killing three and injuring dozens. The wreckage was removed from the runway early Friday.

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Asiana Airlines to sue KTVU over fake pilot names

Updated