If you’re going to accidentally mistake two Black music icons for one another, the least you could do is come up with a good excuse that doesn’t show your ignorance and can’t be verified.
But it’s no surprise that Fox News couldn’t even do that.
The graphic, used for several seconds during Fox News’ broadcast, depicted Franklin in the foreground. But in the background, behind Franklin’s name and occupation, was a semi-transparent image of what Fox News thought was Franklin performing for President Barack Obama. Alas, the woman performing in the photo was LaBelle, reasserting the idea that Fox News cannot even tell two iconic Black women apart.
Immediately, Twitter caught on to the mistake, and people had questions.
Umm, is that Patti LaBelle in the corner? pic.twitter.com/PmUPpgc0zb— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) August 16, 2018
I thought this had to be fake at first but it seems people saw it https://t.co/B2kbwN1qXT— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) August 16, 2018
Fox News honored Aretha Franklin by using a graphic that contained a photo of Patti LaBelle. It’s probably hard for anyone who works at Fox News to tell black people apart because they’ve never worked with any.— Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) August 17, 2018
FOX News announces Aretha Franklin’s death with a photo composite of Aretha – except the “Aretha” to the right is actually Patti LaBelle. Because, well, you know… #BlackLivesMatter #LookAtMyAfricanAmericanOverHere https://t.co/SNTePiCjON— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) August 16, 2018
So Fox News mixed up Aretha Franklin w/ Patti LaBelle…— Rah Digga (@therealrahdigga) August 17, 2018
Dear Fox News,— Brenna Simon (@BrennaSimonSays) August 16, 2018
1. Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle aren’t the same person.
2. Japan has never been communist and was under imperial rule during World War II.
…and you all call CNN the “fake news media”? Shut up, and read a history book.
Some tried to make a joke out of the entire ordeal, replacing Franklin’s image with other women who look absolutely nothing like her.
Fox News gives Aretha Franklin obit a second try.— Jeremy Newberger (@jeremynewberger) August 17, 2018
Good grief. pic.twitter.com/cqZ9EparA6
Fox News mourns the passing of Aretha Franklin. pic.twitter.com/yFRLEEQ6R9— Walter Chaw 周瑜 (@mangiotto) August 16, 2018
Even the Onion threw its hat into the ring.
In a statement, Fox News’s VP of media desk Jessica Santostefano explained that the station was actually trying to use a photo of both LaBelle and Franklin performing together, but that Franklin was accidentally “obscured in that process.”
“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,” Santostefano’s full statement read.
However, the excuse doesn’t check out in the slightest. Regardless of the reason why Fox News wouldn’t be able to show the women performing together, the fact that they would want to do so at all would just show their ignorance toward the feud between the two, which LaBelle finally squashed after Franklin’s passing.
But more importantly, Fox News wouldn’t have been able to show such an image of the women together if they had even wanted to, because that image does not exist.
According to the Daily Beast, the original Associated Press image of LaBelle shows Franklin nowhere in the frame. Furthermore, Franklin never came on stage during that performance. The Daily Beast reported that the only connection the women had in that photo was the fact that Franklin had separately performed at the same Obama White House event, and because of that, Franklin’s name also appears in the caption of the photo.
So, could it be some ignorant producer searched Franklin’s name while looking for stock art, and thought they landed on a winner when LaBelle’s image surfaced as a search result? Did this person, in all their years of living, somehow manage to never see a photo of Franklin? Or do all elder Black women look the same to them? We can probably guess which.