Yesterday the news of Robin Williams’ death caught everyone off guard, leaving fellow comedians, friends, and fans alike to process their sadness in real time. Unfortunately, some of the people caught unaware also run major news organizations, and they too rushed to fill the void—like ABC News, who reported that the actor’s family had asked for “privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time,” right underneath a red banner advertising, “Watch Live: Aerials of Robin Williams’ Home.”
After realizing that some fans didn’t want to see real-time helicopter shots of the family’s privacy being respected—that, in fact, some found it invasive and tasteless—ABC took it down and issued an apology. “When we realized there was no news value to the live stream, we took it down immediately,” said the network, who nevertheless had to send a helicopter to Williams’ home first to come to that conclusion. (That’s just good journalism.) “Our intention was not to be insensitive to his family, friends and fans, and for that we apologize.”
Fortunately for ABC, the fast-moving stages of media grief soon gave Twitter something else to focus its anger on. As Fox News host Greta Van Susteren interviewed Larry King about Williams last night, B-roll of what was purported be a clip from Mrs. Doubtfire ran in the background. However, eagle-eyed viewers who glanced at the screen for more than a few seconds and were not drunk were quick to notice that this wasn’t Mrs. Doubtfire after all. In fact, it was a random YouTube clip titled, “2009 Halloween Costume and dance to Dude Looks Like A Lady,” whose subject is enjoying a little morbid attention today. (Still… It could have been worse.)
Of course, given the shock of the situation, maybe everyone deserves a little slack. After all, not even Larry King got it right the first time.