A BBC journalist erroneously announced that Queen Elizabeth was in the hospital on Twitter today, after a “technical rehearsal” for the monarch’s death ended in major embarrassment for the corporation.
It subsequently emerged, however, that the queen did indeed visit a hospital this morning for her annual checkup, leading to whispers of a conspiracy on Twitter.
In a statement, the palace said, “The queen this morning attended her annual medical checkup at the King Edward VII Hospital in London. This was a routine, pre-scheduled appointment. The queen has now left the hospital.”
Official sources added, “Reports that the queen has been ‘hospitalised’ are incorrect. The queen’s next engagement is a reception for new and retired Lord Lieutenants at Buckingham Palace this evening.”
But it was BBC reporter Ahmen Kawaja’s tweet: “BREAKING: Queen Elizabeth is being treated at King Edward VII hospital in London” that set off a flurry of panicked activity across newsrooms, as rumors that she had died spread like wildfire.
Kawaja then attempted to undo the damage by sending out another tweet, in which she appeared to claim her phone had been used without her permission.
However, the BBC blamed the snafu on a dress rehearsal gone wrong, saying, “During a technical rehearsal for an obituary, tweets were mistakenly sent from the account of a BBC journalist saying that a member of the royal family had been taken ill. The tweets were swiftly deleted and we apologize for any offence.”
A spokesperson for the BBC told The Daily Beast that the journalist responsible for sending the tweet would face disciplinary action.
The debacle goes to show the perils of journalists retweeting sensational news items without verification. To be fair, however, matters were not helped by the fact that the press office phones at Buckingham Palace are frequently hard to get through to between 10 and 11 a.m.—the time when the office’s daily meeting takes place.
And the news that the queen was actually at the hospital this morning will only fuel the fires of conspiracy theorists.
Even CNN Newssource retweeted the news: “JUST IN,” the tweet read. “Queen Elizabeth II hospitalised at King Edward 7th Hospital in London.”
Had the queen in fact died today, the Royalist would probably have been burned as a witch considering the story on this very topic I ran yesterday.