Asiana vows to sue over racist crash report – but case is a longshot

Asiana Airlines has confirmed it will file a lawsuit against the TV station that broadcast offensive fake names of pilots involved in a San Francisco plane crash last week that killed three people.

The promise to sue comes after KTVU-TV displayed four racist Asian names on television and the station anchor attempted to pronounce them, including “Captain Sum Ting Wong” and “Ho Lee Fuk.”

The broadcast soon went viral and prompted widespread outrage, including a harsh statement from the Asian American Journalist Association. The TV station soon apologized profusely, claimed it had been the victim of a hoax, and laid the blame on an intern at the National Transportation Safety Board who reportedly confirmed the names.

The airline on Monday told the Associated Press that it would sue the broadcaster in order to “strongly respond to its racially discriminatory report” that damaged the airline’s reputation. Such a lawsuit, however, has little hope of success.

According to Robert Balin, a media law expert at Davis Wright Tremaine in New York, the broadcast was “incredibly stupid and offensive” but is not ground for a libel suit.

“It’s ugly and racist .. but does not actually state any facts,” said Balin by phone, adding that insults can give rise to libel claims in some Asian countries, but not in the United States.

Asiana Airlines says it will not sue the NTSB because the federal agency didn’t damage its reputation. An investigation into the crash, focusing on pilot error, is ongoing.