Actor Paul Walker’s death prompts missteps—and then apologies

Whether the screw-up was clear exploitation or an accident in a given instance, a giant news organization, a coffee shop, and, yes, a game show all ended up issuing a mea culpa.

A video tribute to actor Paul Walker, who died in a car crash Saturday, quickly topped 1 million views after the YouTube account for the “Fast and the Furious” movie franchise posted it Wednesday. Clearly, lots of people are taking the death of the 40-year-old actor, one of the stars of the blockbuster “Fast and the Furious” movies, quite hard. Brands that people have perceived as being insensitive to the actor’s memory and mourning fans have gotten an earful. For instance, actor Jason Biggs called out the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf café in Los Angeles for employees at one location labeling tip jars with the titles of two of Walker’s biggest films: “Fast and Furious” and “Varsity Blues.”

Many of the replies to Biggs’ tweet are jokes, but are in agreement that the labels are tasteless. The Coffee Bean issued this statement to the website Gossip Cop:

This is completely inconsistent with our brand values and the jars have since been removed. Our thoughts and condolences remain with the many friends and family of Paul Walker during this difficult time. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf would like to thank Jason Biggs for bringing this matter to our attention.

“Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak offered an explanation of his own after “The Fast and the Furious” was an answer to a puzzle on Monday’s episode of the game show.

Some online critics said the puzzle was in poor taste. Finally, Poynter reports that the Associated Press was forced to issue this correction to its obituary for Walker this week:

In a Dec. 1 obituary for Paul Walker, The Associated Press reported erroneously that Walker’s “Fast & Furious” co-star Vin Diesel reacted to Walker’s death in a message on Instagram. The account that was quoted is a fake and does not represent Diesel, said his publicist. Diesel has since posted a message on his Facebook page, verified by the publicist, honoring Walker “as the brother you were, on and off screen.”


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