Legendary football coach Joe Paterno died early today, but not before a string of false reports that he had died on Saturday - set off by a student-run website and repeated by Pennsylvania radio stations, and eventually CBS Sports and CNN. The flurry of inaccurate information was still being debated today, even after Paterno's passing was officially announced Sunday morning. The ex-Penn State coach died of lung cancer, according to his family.
The false reports began Saturday evening when Onward State, a Penn State student-operated website wrote that Paterno, 85, had died. The website based its report on an email that it said had been sent to the school's football players. The report was then repeated by a State College
Station, Penn., radio station. Within minutes, the false report was repeated on CBS Sports' website. The Huffington Post and Deadspin also ran the false report. Journalists, including CNN's Anderson Cooper and Howard Kurtz, re-tweeted the report, though both reporters later corrected themselves.
Paterno's family tweeted statements on Saturday evening, denying all of the media accounts, writing the ex-coach "is continuing to fight," and was "alive but in serious condition."
The episode came almost a year since another series of erroneous reports that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had died after being shot in Tucson, Ariz. Giffords was severely wounded in the shooting, but survived.