By Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO, July 15 (Reuters) - Asiana Airlines said Monday it will sue a TV station that incorrectly reported racially offensive names of four pilots onboard the flight that crash-landed on July 6 at San Francisco International Airport.
An anchorwoman at KTVU, a Cox affiliate based in Oakland, California, fell victim on Friday to an apparent prank and reported four bogus pilot names, including "Sum Ting Wong" and "Wi Tu Low," during the noon newscast. Within hours, the broadcast footage had gone viral on the Internet, drawing widespread criticism and ridicule.
"We decided to sue KTVU because Asiana Airlines thinks their news defames our pilots and our company's reputation," said Kiwon Suh, an Asiana spokesman. The company also said the fake names "disparaged Asians in general."
During an extended on-air apology late Friday, KTVU said its staff should have caught the prank but neglected to "read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out." But in a bizarre twist, the station also blamed the National Transportation Safety Board, which had confirmed the names for the station prior to the broadcast.
The NTSB apologized late Friday and acknowledged that a summer intern who was answering phones as a volunteer at the agency confirmed the fake names "in good faith" for KTVU. Kelly Nantel, an NTSB spokeswoman, said the intern did not make up the names but acted "outside the scope of his authority" by confirming information for reporters.
As of late Monday, the intern was no longer working at the agency, according to a CNN report.
So far, neither KTVU nor the NTSB have explained where the names originated. KTVU declined to comment, citing the potential lawsuit.
On Monday, Suh, the Asiana spokesman, played down earlier reports that the company had threatened legal action against the federal agency as well. "We will never sue the NTSB," Suh said.
KTVU's gaffe came five days after Asiana disclosed the names of the pilot and co-pilot on Flight 214 as Lee Kang-kook and Lee Jeong-min, respectively.
The crash of the Boeing 777 plane resulted in the deaths of three teenage girls in a group of students from eastern China who were visiting the United States for a summer camp. Over 180 passengers and crew members were injured.
The Washington-based NTSB investigators said they were preparing to finish work in San Francisco after eight days on the scene. Although the agency warned it could take months to determine the cause of the crash, information released by investigators so far suggests pilot error contributed to the accident.