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Tonight, CNN and the AP report that Al "Grandpa" Lewis, who appeared on The Munsters in his signature role, died yesterday at the age of 83:
Al Lewis, the cigar-chomping patriarch of "The Munsters" whose work as a basketball scout, restaurateur and political candidate never eclipsed his role as Grandpa from the television sitcom, died after years of failing health. He was 83.
Lewis, with his wife at his bedside, passed away Friday night, said Bernard White, program director at WBAI-FM, where the actor hosted a weekly radio program. White made the announcement on the air during the Saturday slot where Lewis usually appeared.
"To say that we will miss his generous, cantankerous, engaging spirit is a profound understatement," White said.
Apparently, AP and CNN have a mathematics problem, because Lewis was born in 1910 -- making him 95 years old, not 83. Had he been 83, he would have only been 41 when he started appearing as Grandpa Munster on the TV show in 1964. It really didn't take much research to come up with the correct date of his birth and therefore his correct age, although it did create some confusion at Wikipedia. They resolved it by finding a 1997 interview in which Lewis himself gives his birth year as 1910, and explains that he went into show business in 1923. That took me ten minutes on the Internet to resolve after finding this story on CNN; I had heard the news earlier on the radio, along with his correct age.
Why couldn't the reporter at the AP and all the editorial checks and balances at both AP and CNN do something as simple as verify a well-known actor and wannabe politician's birthdate? Remember this when we hear the next lecture about how bloggers don't get fact-checked like reporters at mainstream media outlets.
UPDATE: Not to mention that he would have been 82 if he was born in April 1923, not 83. The AP's Larry McShane now says that his son claims he was born in 1923, but somehow fails to explain why they wouldn't just use Lewis' own claimed birthdate as the most accurate:
Al Lewis, the cigar-chomping patriarch of "The Munsters" whose work as a basketball scout, restaurateur and political candidate never eclipsed his role as Grandpa from the television sitcom, died after years of failing health. He was 82. The actor was widely reported to have been born in 1910, but his son Ted Lewis said Saturday that his father was born in 1923.
It does give the AP some excuse for getting this wrong, if the man's family can't be consistent with the date.
UPDATE II: The controversy rages ... even more reason to cut the media some slack on this one.Sphere It View blog reactions
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