| Media |

WBAP Announces Death of George H.W. Bush, Quickly Realizes He's Not Actually Dead [Updated]

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

George H.W. Bush, the country's 41st president, has been in a Houston hospital for more than a month now, undergoing treatment for complications from a serious case of bronchitis. The 88-year-old was checked into intensive care on Wednesday "following a series of setbacks, including a persistent fever."

It was during his stay in the ICU that local radio station WBAP apparently got word that he had died and dispatched a breaking news bulletin via email announcing that Bush had died. Liberally Lean has a screenshot.

That's a bit embarrassing since Bush Sr. remains very much alive. His spokesman told the Associated Press this morning to "put the harps back in the closet," as the former president does not plan on going anywhere.

WBAP quickly realized its error and sent another message.

"A message erroneously reporting the death of President George H.W. Bush was sent out moments ago by WBAP News," it said. "Mr. Bush has not passed away. We sincerely apologize for this error."

News director Rick Hadley forwarded questions about the slip to Dan Bennett, market manager for Cumulus media. We've left a message. Update at 3:03 p.m.: Hadley gave us a call back a moment ago to explain the situation, which he characterized as a huge mistake.

"As every news organization will do, we get our obituaries ready to go for people who aren't doing well," Hadley said.

In this case, there were the reports that Bush had been transferred to the ICU, so the news team prepared an email blast to be ready for when Bush died. A bit macabre, perhaps, but standard practice.

Hadley says there was a problem with the email system that, unbeknownst to the staff, caused the message to be sent to the station's email distribution list. They didn't realize what had happened until 30 minutes later, when the switchboard began lighting up with callers.

"We would never, obviously, do that on purpose," Hadley said. "We were obviously mortified. It's one of those things you wish you could undo and go back in time take back."

He stressed that the news was never read on the radio, and that the station was able to correct the mistake after the email had been sent to about a third of the station's email subscribers.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.