Obama and Osama – just one letter makes a difference

That one letter was apparently a tricky one for many overworked news outlets to handle amid the frenzy of bin Laden's death.

May 3, 2011 02:50
1 minute read.
Fox-affiliate news shows "Obama bin Laden dead."

fox news obama bin laden_311. (photo credit: Fox News)


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NEW YORK – Completely different world outlooks, the current statuses of their respective pulses, and one mere letter of the alphabet differentiate between “Obama” and “Osama.” But that one letter was apparently a tricky one for many overworked news outlets to handle amid the frenzy of Sunday night’s presidential announcement that the leader of al-Qaida had been killed by US forces in Pakistan.

“Obama bin Laden dead,” read the bottom-of-the-screen news crawl on Fox News. At another point, the network reported that President Obama was dead. Many quickly deemed the mistake to be a Freudian slip, as the conservative news channel is not known for its predilection for the sitting US president.

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But Fox was far from alone in making the mistake, and the error crossed partisan lines. Former MSNBC anchor and wellknown liberal Keith Olbermann wrote on his blog that former president George W. Bush had “personally de-prioritized the hunt for Obama,” while another MSNBC correspondent sent out a Tweet stating, “Obama shot and killed.”

CNN and ABC News similarly made the error, each more than once, with ABC News posting the incorrect bad news about the president on its website twice.

One news anchor in Washington, DC, said, on-air, “...the President, telling the nation President Obama is in fact dead.” He, of course, immediately corrected himself saying, “I’m sorry... Osama Bin Laden is dead.”

Awkward. Fox News is now spelling the terrorist leader’s name “Usama.”

But the one-letter mix-up isn’t limited just to the professionals. Radio call-in shows found themselves vulnerable to the error as well.


One caller to WNYC, New York’s National Public Radio affiliate, described sitting on the couch with her daughter, watching “Obama bin Laden’s press conference.”

“You mean President Obama,” the host, Brian Lehrer, said.

The caller was apologetic.

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