- NBA superstar Kobe Bryant died at the age of 41 Sunday morning, alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others who were killed in a Calabasas, California helicopter crash.
- L.A. authorities specifically condemned TMZ for breaking the story before the victims’ families had been notified.
- Other outlets faced public criticism for their errors, like ABC News which incorrectly said all four of Bryant’s children had died, ESPN which reported that one of the victims was retired NBA player Rick Fox, and the BBC which mistakenly used footage of Lebron James instead of Bryant.
- An MSNBC reporter also faced backlash for appearing to say the n-word when covering the story, though she later apologized and explained that she stuttered on-air, combining the names of the Knicks and the Lakers to say “Nakers.”
TMZ Reports Kobe Bryant’s Death
Minutes after Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash, TMZ was already reporting the death of Kobe Bryant.
TMZ’s coverage—along with coverage by various other outlets—sparked a national debate over how to handle celebrity deaths, especially as they break.
Bryant’s death was first reported by TMZ before authorities were able to fully contact the victims’ next of kin. From there, the story propagated on other major media outlets like ABC, the BBC, and ESPN.
At a press conference Sunday, Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva criticized TMZ directly for leaking the information so soon.
“There is wide speculation of who the identities are,” he said, “however, it would be entirely inappropriate to identify anyone by name until the coroner has made the identification through their very deliberative process, and they’ve made notifications to next-of-kin. And it would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one was perished and that you learned about it from TMZ. That is just wholly inappropriate, so we’re not going to be going there.”
Later, Los Angeles Undersheriff Tim Murakami issued a similar statement on Twitter, though he stopped short of naming TMZ directly.
“I am saddened that I was gathering facts as a media outlet reported the Kobe had passed,” Murakami said. “I understand getting the scoop but please allow us time to make personal notifications to their loved ones. It’s very cold to hear of the loss via media. Breaks my heart.”
Bryant is not the first celebrity death TMZ has broken, a trait the celebrity gossip site is known for. In 2009, it first reported that Michael Jackson had died. In 2012, it broke the story that Whitney Houston had died and in 2016, it also broke the news of Prince’s death.
On social media, the hashtag #BoycottTMZ trended, with many users saying the site exploited his death to break the story.
Shame on you!! Reporting about this crash before the families were notified! Despicable greedy behavior. #boycottTMZ— Wendy (@raztazz2001) January 26, 2020
ABC, ESPN, and BBC Slammed
TMZ isn’t the only news organization being criticized for its coverage of Kobe’s death. In the first few hours following Bryant’s death, reports were highly varied.
During early coverage, ABC News reporter Matt Gutman reported that it was believed all four of Kobe’s daughters were aboard the helicopter and had been killed. That then led to a number of ABC affiliates reporting the same information. In reality, neither Bryant’s wife Vanessa nor his other three daughters were on the helicopter.
At the same time, you had ESPN reported that one of the victims was Rick Fox, a former player for the Boston Celtics and L.A. Lakers. Fox, however, was not on the flight and was later confirmed alive by an NBA reporter on Sunday.
The BBC also caught major criticism during its airing of an obituary segment for Bryant where it mistakenly used footage of Lebron James, who is still very much alive. That footage included direct shots of James’ “23” jersey with his name on the back.
MSNBC Anchor and Buttigieg Criticized
MSNBC’s Alison Morris—while not criticized for misreporting—was accused of dropping the n-word when talking about Bryant’s death.
Morris later took to Twitter to clarify her comment, which said she was a stutter between trying to say “Knicks” and “Lakers.”
“Earlier today, while reporting on the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s passing, I unfortunately stuttered on air, combining the names of the Knicks and the Lakers to say “Nakers.” Please know I did not & would NEVER use a racist term. I apologize for the confusion this caused.”
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg also came under fire for insinuating Bryant was a football player while on Fox News.
“Our lives are often touched by people we never even meet, and there are millions of people, not just in Los Angeles but around the world,” Buttigieg said. “Right now, mourning because they were inspired by what he did he did on the field, what he meant off the field.”
However, in an earlier interview, Buttigieg used the term “court.” On Twitter, he also used the term “court.”
What Do We Know So Far?
While a preliminary report likely won’t be published for another month and a full report likely won’t come until next year, many details surrounding the crash are still being learned.
During their initial reports Sunday morning, many media outlets said five people—including Bryant and his daughter—had been killed; however, Sheriff Villaneuva later revealed that nine people had been aboard the aircraft when it went down.
“There were no survivors,” he said. “We have a manifest that indicates that there was nine people onboard the aircraft. The pilot plus eight individuals.”
Victims include Bryant, his daughter, college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, elementary school basketball coach Christina Mauser, a parent named Sarah Chester and her daughter Peyton, and pilot Ara Zobayan.
The helicopter reportedly took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County just after 9 a.m. It passed over Boyle Heights and near Dodger stadium. It then circled Glendale, and it was on its way to Kobe’s Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game. Just before 10 a.m., the craft then crashed onto a hillside in Calabasas.
The helicopter itself was a Sikorsky S-76B model, which has been manufactured since the 1970s. Bryant specific helicopter had been in operation since 1991. It was outfitted with twin turboshaft engines and contained room for 12 passengers and two crew members.
Bryant reportedly began using the helicopter as a way to beat L.A. traffic and spend more time with his children. Since his death, a clip of Bryant explaining his decision on The Corp has circulated on social media.
Bryant was also known for offering his helicopter to help his teammates make doctors’ appointments.
What Will the Investigation Look Into?
As for the investigation, many Angelenos took notice of a thick fog encompassing the region Sunday morning; however, it is wholly unknown if this caused or even played into the helicopter’s crash.
Despite that, on Sunday prior to the crash, L.A. police and the sheriff’s departments did deem the fog hazardous enough to ground their helicopters. Reports Monday morning indicated that Bryant’s pilot had given special permission to fly in the fog.
Fog by itself does not mean that a pilot cannot fly a helicopter. Instead, helicopters need to be equipped with specialized instruments that help pilots fly in those conditions. If not using those instruments, a pilot would only be able to use what’s known as VFR — right, visual flight rules. Pilots can request special clearance in inclement conditions to use VFR if a pilot is rated high enough to not fly only by instruments.
According to the LATimes, an audio recording between the pilot and air traffic controllers suggests that indicates the helicopter was using VFR because the pilot told a controller he was “in VFR at 1,500″ feet. The newspaper, however, also noted that none of this has been confirmed yet.
Regardless of whether or not fog was the culprit, it is expected to play a factor in the official investigation.
That investigation will also look into if there were mechanical problems aboard the helicopter, though it’s extremely rare for Sikorsky S-76B’s to experience twin-engine failure. From 2006-2016, the model saw the lowest number of fatal crashes among all of the major civilian helicopters in the country.
It is likely possible that both the weather and some form of mechanical failure took place, causing the chopper to plummet, but any official cause will likely not be known for some time.
Fans and Friends Remember Kobe
Following news of Bryant’s death, many fans and friends mourned the loss of the NBA superstar, with many in L.A. saying he perfectly represented the spirit of the city.
Perhaps one of the most memorable responses came from footage showing the Lakers returning to the city, where Lebron James can be visibly seen tearing up. The team reportedly learned about the crash on their flight back to LA.
Chicago Bulls icon Michael Jordan also lamented the loss of Bryant.
“Words can’t describe the pain I am feeling,” Jordan said. “I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.”
Major politicians such as President Donald Trump and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also issued statements via Twitter.
Throughout Sunday, many fans gathered around the Staples Center where the Lakers play. Bryant also saw more tributes at the Staples Center later that night when stars like Alicia Keys, Aerosmith, Lizzo, and Lil Nas X all honored him at the Grammys.
In Philadelphia, people have set up a memorial in front of the Kobe Bryant Gymnasium at Bryant’s high school.
At the same time, there have been multiple reports of fans rushing to the crash site to set up a memorial. The traffic became so heavy that authorities shut down roads leading to the hillside where the helicopter crashed after that traffic made it harder for emergency personnel to perform their jobs.
That disturbance also risked contaminating the crash site as investigators work to both preserve and examine the scene to determine what caused the helicopter to go down.
Bryant’s 2003 Rape Allegation
While millions mourn Bryant’s death, others have used this as an opportunity to reminded people of Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault allegation, when a then-19-year-old hotel employee accused him of raping her. That case was later dropped because the accuser refused to testify in court. The accuser then settled privately with Bryant.
“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual,” Bryant admitted in 2004, “I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
People like Evan Rachel Wood noted the tragedy of the situation but also refused to shy away from addressing the accusation.
“What has happened is tragic,” she said on Twitter. “I am heartbroken for Kobe’s family. He was a sports hero. He was also a rapist. And all of these truths can exist simultaneously.”
Additionally, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez tweeted a Daily Beast link to a 2016 article titled: “Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case.” Sonmez later tweeted that she had received over 10,000 abuse and death threats after posting the link.
As of Monday, her tweets on Bryant have all been deleted and she has reportedly been suspended by the Post.
However, many were frustrated by those bringing up the rape case at such a sensitive time, including Comedian Corrine Fisher, who offered her take on the matter.
“MY REPLY WHEN YOU TELL ME KOBE IS A RAPIST: ‘I know. We all fucking know. You think I don’t know? I fucking know. Go away,’” she said on Twitter. “Welp, he’s dead at 41 AND his 13 yr old daughter is dead. They crashed in a helicopter & burst into flames. Is that the justice you wanted you monsters?”
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Los Angeles Times) (NBC News)
Billie Eilish Advocates for Climate Action Ahead of U.N. COP26 Summit
The singer was joined by “The Office” actor Rainn Wilson and other big-name celebrities and activists in a pitch for world leaders to make substantial progress at the conference.
Billie Eilish Calls for Climate Action
Singer Billie Eilish partnered Tuesday with the environmental group Arctic Basecamp at the University of Exeter to call for meaningful climate action ahead of the U.N. COP26 climate conference.
“This year our leaders are deciding the global actions required on the environment climate emergency in a critical decade for our planet,” Eilish said in a video. “We must stand together and speak up to save our planet, not just for us, but for our future generations. And we need urgent, urgent action now.”
Eilish is no stranger to advocating for solutions to climate change. In September, the “Happier Than Ever” singer urged Congress to pass climate legislation as part of the #CodeRedClimate campaign. For her latest pitch with Arctic Basecamp, she was joined by other big names, including “The Office” actor Rainn Wilson, explorer Levison Wood, climate activist Daze Aghaji, and wildlife advocate Robert Irwin, who is the son of the late Steve Irwin.
“Courage. That’s what our world’s leaders need more than anything,” Wilson said in the video message. “The decisions that they make about the climate crisis in the next decade are the most important decisions in our planet’s history.”
What is COP26?
Arctic Basecamp works with scientists and other high-profile organizations all over the world to call attention to climate issues and encourage effective solutions. It was founded by Gail Whiteman, a professor at the University of Exeter, who released a statement thanking the slew of stars and activists for their involvement in the COP26 initiative.
“It is amazing to be working with such brave people that not only are using their voice but are using their voice for good,” she said. “This is a crisis and the Arctic is sounding the alarm. It is time that world leaders come together to create real change that ensures a safe future for humanity.”
COP26 will kick off in Glasgow on Oct. 31 and run through Nov. 12. Global leaders will discuss several actions regarding the environment, including pacts like the Paris Agreement and U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. They will also focus on a series of goals, including achieving global net-zero emissions by mid-century and protecting ecosystems, along with other infrastructure threatened by climate change.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pitched the event as a key moment for the world to come together and tackle climate change. This week, he described it as “our best chance to make the changes we need to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren.”
See what others are saying: (Billboard) (CNN) (The Independent)
Dave Chappelle Says He’s Willing To Meet With Trans Community Under Certain Conditions
After being criticized for transphobic comments, the comedian said he would give an audience to the transgender community even though he is “confused” about what they would be discussing.
Dave Chappelle Addresses Netflix Employees
Comedian Dave Chappelle responded on Monday to the recent backlash he has faced for making transphobic remarks in his new Netflix stand-up special “The Closer.”
Over the past several weeks, many employees at Netflix have protested against Chappelle’s program and numerous LGBTQ+ rights groups have condemned his comments. Netflix employees staged a walkout last week to call out “The Closer” and advocate for more trans and nonbinary employees to be included at the company.
Some reports have alleged that Chappelle denied the opportunity to speak with the trans community and allies at Netflix. In a new video addressing the controversy, Chappelle refuted that allegation.
“It’s been said in the press that I was invited to speak to the transgender employees of Netflix and I refused. That is not true,” he said “If they had invited me, I would have accepted it, although I am confused about what we would be speaking about.“
“I said what I said, and boy, I heard what you said. My God, how could I not?” he continued. “You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. It seems like I’m the only one who can’t go to the office.”
Chappelle Says He Will Meet With Trans Community
Chappelle added that he would be willing to meet with the trans community but is not “bending to anybody’s demands.”
“I have some conditions. First of all, you cannot come if you have not watched my special from beginning to end,” Chappelle explained. “You must come to a place of my choosing at a time of my choosing, and thirdly, you must admit that Hannah Gadsby is not funny.”
Gadsby is a comedian best known for her Netflix special “Nanette.” While defending Chappelle, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos name-dropped Gadsby and “Nanette” as examples of the service’s offerings that give voice to marginalized communities. Gadsby shot back at the executive, saying she did not want him to “drag [her] name into [his] mess.”
“Now I have to deal with even more of the hate and anger that Dave Chappelle’s fans like to unleash on me every time Dave gets 20 million dollars to process his emotionally stunted partial world view,” Gadsby wrote on Instagram. “Fuck you and your amoral algorithm cult.”
During “The Closer,” Chappelle called himself “team TERF” while discussing author J.K. Rowling being “canceled” after making a series of transphobic comments herself. He said he agreed with Rowling and added that “gender is a fact.” He later made a slew of other comments, including a joke about Caitlyn Jenner and remarks comparing the genitalia of transgender women to Beyond and Impossible meat.
As outrage poured in, Sarandos released a series of statements in support of Chappelle and his artistic freedom. During his video, Chappelle thanked Sarandos, claiming that he has lost a series of opportunities amid the controversy. Chappelle recently completed a documentary that he says was going to screen at film festivals, but he is allegedly no longer welcome at those events.
“When this controversy came out about ‘The Closer,’ they began disinviting me from these film festivals, and now, today, not a film company, not a movie studio, not a film festival, nobody will touch this film,” Chapelled claimed. “Thank God for Ted Sarandos and Netflix, he’s the only one that didn’t cancel me yet.”
Chappelle later announced that he will be taking his documentary on tour to cities like San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, and Toronto.
See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter) (NPR)
Affidavit Outlines Alleged Events That Lead Up to Fatal Shooting on “Rust” Set
Before the tragic incident that resulted in the death of the film’s cinematographer, actor Alec Baldwin was allegedly assured that the gun he was handed on set was not loaded.
Details of Events Leading Up to Shooting
An affidavit alleges that actor Alec Baldwin was rehearsing a scene that involved him pointing a gun at the camera when he misfired the weapon last week, killing the production’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, and injuring director Joel Souza.
Multiple outlets obtained the affidavit from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday. The document details the alleged events that resulted in Thursday’s tragedy on the set of “Rust.” Souza told investigators that during a firearms safety announcement, he heard the prop weapon referred to as a “cold gun,” a term that means the gun is not loaded.
According to Souza, the guns on set were usually checked by two people: armorer Hannah Guttierrez-Reed and assistant director Dave Halls. Halls was in charge of giving the guns to actors, though sources said both Guttierrez-Reed and Halls did so at various times.
The affidavit said that Halls handed the gun to Baldwin while announcing it as a “cold gun.” Investigators say investigators that Halls got the revolver from a tray set up by Gutierrez-Reed.
Souza said the crew had spent part of the day preparing for a scene in a church and later left to take a lunch break at another location. He said he was unsure if the firearm had been checked again after returning from lunch.
When the accident happened. Souza said he heard what “sounded like a whip and then loud pop.” He first noticed Hutchins grabbing her midsection and stumbling back before realizing he had been hit in the shoulder.
The incident came after six camera crew workers reportedly walked off the set in protest of unfair and unsafe working conditions. According to the affidavit, a replacement crew had quickly been hired, but production on the day of the accident was off to a late start because of related issues. Regarding general on-set behavior, Souza claimed that “everyone was getting along” and that there had been “no altercations” to his knowledge.
The affidavit’s walkout claim backed up previous reporting from The Los Angeles Times. Sources from the set of “Rust” told the outlet on Friday that half a dozen workers left the set because they were frustrated by safety issues, long hours, long commutes, and a long wait for their paychecks.
Safety Issues on Set of “Rust”
According to the report, standard industry safety protocols “were not strictly followed,” and at least one worker complained specifically about gun safety. Some sources told The Times that there had already been at least two accidental discharges of a prop gun. Around a week before the fatal accident, Baldwin’s stunt double allegedly fired two rounds after being told a gun was cold.
“There should have been an investigation into what happened,” one source told the outlet. “There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.”
Another source told The Times that “corners were being cut” on set.
The report also claimed that Hutchins was among those advocating for her team to have safer work conditions.
Rust Movie Productions released a statement saying safety “is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company.”
“Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down,” the statement continued.
Baldwin, for his part, sent his condolences to Hutchins’ family on Friday. At the time, he said he was cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
Vigils have been held in New Mexico and Hollywood to honor Hutchins. The American Film Institute also made a memorial scholarship in her name.