Faked CNN report about lost Titanic sub spreads online

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on June 22, 2023 at 22:37
  • 2 min read
An image circulating widely online appears to show CNN reporting that rescuers found the submersible craft that vanished on its way toward the wreck of the Titanic, with five passengers no longer on board. This is false; the US broadcaster published no such story, a network spokesperson told AFP, and the posts predate official statements made on June 22, 2023 about a catastrophic implosion and the death of the vessel's inhabitants.

"Missing OceanGate Submarine Found Empty," says the headline on what appears to be screenshot of a report from "CNN News," dated June 21, 2023.

The text of the supposed story reads: "According to the co-founder of Oceangate, the submarine has been found but the passengers were no longer in the submarine. ‘The submarine was bolted from the outside making it impossible for the passengers to exit the submarine, almost as if they vanished.’ – OceanGate Co-Founder Wendy Rush. We’ll keep you updated as new information arises.”

Screenshot from Facebook taken June 22, 2023

Posts sharing the image spread across Facebook, Instagram and other platforms such as TikTok, where videos amplifying it received tens of thousands of views.

The posts came one day before the US Coast Guard said on June 22 that debris in the North Atlantic Ocean's depths suggested a "catastrophic implosion" of the lost vessel. OceanGate Expeditions, the private research and ocean tourism company behind the excursion, said in a statement that they believed all five people on board were dead.

Rescuers had for days searched international waters in a race against the clock to locate the missing vessel and its crew before their limited oxygen supply ran out.

The Titan submersible, destined for a deep-ocean voyage to the sunken Titanic, began its descent on June 18 but lost contact with the surface less than two hours later. Those believed to have died on board included OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, a French submarine operator known as "Mr Titanic," a British aviation tycoon and a wealthy Pakistani businessman and his son.

The vessel was not found intact and empty, despite the claims circulating online.

CNN published no such report on June 21, AFP's review of the news organization's website found.

"The image is fabricated and not something CNN reported," Emily Kuhn, the broadcaster's vice president of communications, told AFP in a June 22 email.

On the contrary, CNN's live updates (archived here) continued to cover the recovery efforts through June 22 -- including an underwater robot's detection of a "debris field" near the Titanic's wreckage, which was determined to be from the external body of the submersible, and OceanGate's statement mourning the "loss of life."

The fabricated report showed signs of fakery, including inconsistent capitalization of the "G" in "OceanGate" and a format that does not match CNN's website and mobile app.

The made-up report also wrongly identified Wendy Rush, the OceanGate CEO's wife, as a company co-founder. She is director of communications and an expedition team member, according to her LinkedIn profile (archived here).

AFP has previously debunked other fabricated CNN content, including here, here and here.

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