Deadline on Thursday apologized for accidentally posting the draft of a story claiming Vice President Mike Pence had tested positive for the coronavirus. The post was quickly removed and the outlet released a statement regarding the error:
A draft post of a story about Vice President Mike Pence testing positive for coronavirus that was never meant to publish was accidently [sic] posted on Deadline. It was pulled down immediately. It never should have been posted and Deadline will take steps to see this kind of thing never happens again. Apologies to the Vice President and our readers. We regret the error.
While it may seem like yet another example of media bias, it is more likely that Deadline had the article prepared just in case such news broke, since President Donald Trump, his wife Melania, and many members of his inner circle had all tested positive.
This kind of thing happens fairly regularly with celebrity deaths. Many major news outlets have obituaries prewritten for celebrities, even younger stars, just in case. Every once in a while, one of these obituaries gets published before the person has actually died.
In a recent example, former Rep. John Lewis was reported to have died in early July, prompting his chief of staff to say the congressman was “resting comfortably at home” on July 11, 2020. Just six days later, Lewis actually died due to complications from pancreatic cancer.
Back in 1998, comedian Bob Hope’s obituary was accidentally published by The Associated Press, which even led to then-Rep. Bob Stump (R-AZ) to announce the legend’s death on the floor of the House of Representatives. The mistake was broadcast live on C-Span.
In 2008, Bloomberg accidentally published a 17-page long obituary for Apple founder Steve Jobs. Jobs didn’t die until 2011. The error came when Bloomberg attempted to update the obituary and accidentally published it in the process. The outlet issued a retraction but didn’t mention Jobs by name:
Story Referencing Apple Was Sent in Error by Bloomberg News Aug. 27 (Bloomberg) — An incomplete story referencing Apple Inc. was inadvertently published by Bloomberg News at 4:27 p.m. New York time today. The item was never meant for publication and has been retracted. —Editor: Joe Winski, Cesca Antonelli
In 2013, Reuters accidentally published an obituary for billionaire George Soros that wasn’t even completely filled in. The article reported Soros had “died XXX at age XXX.” The outlet issued a retraction that read: “Reuters erroneously published an advance obituary of financier and philanthropist George Soros. A spokesman for Soros said that the New York-based financier is alive and well. Reuters regrets the error.”
In another example of the obituary being published just slightly premature, CBS News accidentally published one for former first lady Barbara Bush in April 2018. The headline even read “DO NOT PUBLISH.” Two days later, Bush actually did die.
The most embarrassing example, however, came in 2003, when pre-written draft obituaries for multiple internationally known figures were discovered in an area of CNN’s website. The obituaries for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, then-Vice President Dick Cheney, former Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, comedian Bob Hope, former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, and Pope John Paul II, were all discovered. At the time, they were all alive. The only member of the group who is still alive today is Cheney.
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