Fox News is apologizing after airing a glaring error in its tribute to Aretha Franklin on Thursday morning.
Following reports that Franklin had died, the network aired a lengthy tribute to the Queen of Soul, including numerous interviews and performances. However, viewers noticed something awry approximately 3 minutes and 30 seconds into the news package.
Putting up the dates of Franklin’s life, 1948-2018, the onscreen image also included a transposed photo in the background which viewers quickly identified was not, in fact, Aretha Franklin, but the legendary singer Patti LaBelle.
The photo has been identified as belonging to a 2014 performance LaBelle gave for then-President Barack Obama at the White House during which she sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
To add insult to injury, Franklin and LaBelle had a notably fraught relationship during their lifetimes. Though LaBelle paid tribute to the fallen singer on Twitter, writing, “I am deeply saddened about the passing of the Queen of Soul and my sister in song, Aretha Franklin.”
In a statement to EW, Fox News executive Jessica Santostefano explained the error. “We sincerely apologize to Aretha Franklin’s family and friends. Our intention was to honor the icon using a secondary image of her performing with Patti LaBelle in the full screen graphic, but the image of Ms. Franklin was obscured in that process, which we deeply regret,” the statement read.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Upon review of the photo in question of Patti LaBelle, EW was unable to find any instance of her and Aretha Franklin performing or appearing together on stage at the “Women of Soul: In Performance at the White House” special hosted by President Obama in 2014, which aired on PBS. When contacted for further clarification on the photo and performance, Fox News directed EW to an AP photo that notes “Aretha Franklin performed at the same event that night.” Fox News did not immediately reply to a subsequent email by EW pointing out that LaBelle and Franklin were neither on stage nor photographed together.]
Viewers were quick to point out the error via Twitter, taking Fox News to task for their oversight. See a sampling of tweets below.