NBC regrets the inconvenience

KEVIN COWHERD

March 03, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

Feb. 9 -- NBC News apologized today for a Nov. 17 "Dateline NBC" report in which a GM pickup truck was rigged with incendiary devices that caused it to explode on impact.

Feb. 24 -- NBC News apologized today for a January report that purported to show pollution damage in an Idaho national forest, but which substituted file footage of a river clogged with dead fish for the river mentioned in the report.

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March 3 -- Admitting a senior producer had made a "slight error in judgment," NBC News apologized for sneaking a camera crew into the bedroom of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., placing a crack pipe in his hand and filming him while he slept.

The clip, which aired during a special report entitled "Congressional Coke Freaks?" claimed to show Kennedy "passed out" after a two-day cocaine binge in a dingy crack house in the Roxbury section of Boston.

"Hindsight is always 20-20," said an NBC official, who requested anonymity. "But looking back on it now, we probably shouldn't have done that."

April 2 -- Claiming it was an April Fool's joke that got out of hand, NBC News apologized for a report that a "tornado" had been sighted in the skies above Mission, Kan.

"It was supposed to read 'tomato,'" said a network spokesman. "Someone was having a little fun and changed the word on the teleprompter."

The "tornado" report sent thousands of panicked citizens streaming out of town in frantic motorcades that clogged traffic for 25 miles in all directions.

Kansas Gov. Joan Finney mobilized the National Guard while hundreds of emergency vehicles from across the region raced into Mission. In addition, Red Cross volunteers set up scores of temporary shelters, commandeering high school gyms, Elks halls and church basements.

"We regret any inconvenience," said the NBC spokesman.

May 22 -- Citing the pressure of declining ratings, NBC News apologized for a recent "Dateline NBC" report on the Abominable Snowman, admitting that it had used a husky stage technician dressed in a furry costume for its dramatic footage of the fabled yeti.

"I don't know what we were thinking," said an NBC spokesman.

The controversial clip, said to have been filmed in a remote region of the Himalayas, appeared to show co-host Stone Phillips being chased by a large creature with the half-man, half-ape features of the Abominable Snowman.

At one point, Phillips can be heard wailing: "I DON'T WANT TO DIE! I DON'T WANT TO DIE!" while co-host Jane Pauley looks on in apparent anguish from atop a nearby boulder.

NBC officials now admit the scene was filmed in Teaneck, N.J.

David Ramirez, a union technician from Queens, played the part of the abominable snowman. He has since left NBC News and signed with Paramount Pictures, and can be seen in the upcoming film "It!" starring Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn.

June 14 -- Vowing "it absolutely will not happen again," NBC News apologized for a recent report on America's crumbling infrastructure, admitting that shots of heavily rutted highways, crumbling bridges and decrepit railway trestles were culled from old World War II footage of allied bombing runs.

"The deadline pressure on these segment producers is enormous," said an NBC spokesman. "Apparently, the producer in question decided there wasn't enough time to send our own cameras out."

The spokesman added that the footage, obtained from the NBC archives, included the fire-bombing of the German city of Dresden and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, as well as the air portion of the decisive Battle of Midway in June 1942.

After the original report on the country's decaying infrastructure aired, many viewers complained to NBC that the footage looked "grainy." Many also wondered why the segment had been shot entirely in black and white.

"We probably should have 'fessed up right then and there," said the spokesman.

July 30 -- Promising to crack down "once and for all -- and this time we mean it!" on reporters who take liberties with the facts, NBC News apologized for a recent report in which it claimed that New York Mayor David Dinkins had murdered an 82-year-old Manhattan grandmother.

"Maybe he didn't actually kill her, but he scared her," said an NBC spokesman. "He called her names and stuff."

"In retrospect, however, murder was probably the wrong word to use."

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