There’s a saying in media that any publicity is good publicity. However, the story of Mexican TV network Televisa and its handling of “Frida Sofia,” a girl allegedly trapped in rubble for days after the recent earthquake, reveals one of the many exceptions to that rule. Southern Mexico was struck by a magnitude 7.6 earthquake near Puebla, Oaxaca that reached Mexico City at magnitude 7.1 on Tuesday, Sept. 19th. Numerous buildings collapsed, including the Colegio Enrique Rébsamen where, allegedly, a young girl named Frida Sofia was trapped underneath but still alive.
This past Wednesday, the day after the earthquake, there were reports that a young girl named Frida Sofia was trapped under the rubble of the Colegio Enrique Rébsamen.
There were several unconfirmed anecdotes from volunteers and workers at the scene describing attempts to rescue the girl. Those stories were repeated breathlessly by reporters such as Danielle Dithurbide of Televisa. Some claimed to have seen Frida Sofia wriggle her fingers or to have fed her water or milk through a hose.
Wednesday night, thousands of people tuned in to the news, hoping to see the dramatic rescue of Frida Sofia.
Literally glued to the tv watching the rescue efforts to get #fridasofia and the others trapped with her out from their crumbled school ??
— Monica M. Morales (@monicacr7) September 21, 2017
I've been watching el rescate de Frida Sofia desde la mañana y siento que ya la conozco God I hope they find her safe and soon ?
— eva? (@muggleprincess_) September 21, 2017
— Abril Kushner (@abrilkushner) September 21, 2017
But the entire story crumbled on Thursday, when Ángel Enrique Sarmiento of the Mexican Navy informed the press of the rescue of 11 students at the site. No girl named “Frida Sofia” was found.
Nineteen children and 3 adults were also found dead beneath the rubble. The school assisted the Navy in their efforts to identify all students and, as it turned out, all were accounted for as either rescued, at home, or perished at the site. As for Frida Sofia, they never knew anything about her and are sure she doesn’t even exist.
Soon, international news agencies began to pick up the story.
Mexican authorities say story of girl trapped in school's rubble false after all children accounted for https://t.co/K9Jaidjiia
— AFP news agency (@AFP) September 21, 2017
Televisa blamed the Navy, others blame Televisa.
Televisa and other media outlets later aired an apology from members of the Mexican Navy for the horrible mixup and lack of communication over the events that transpired.
Per Ángel Enrique Sarmiento’s statement, the Mexican Navy acted on reports from numerous eyewitnesses while also attempting to corroborate reports from official sources.
Despite the apology, people remained skeptical about Televisa’s involvement in the false report.
— Lydia Cacho (@lydiacachosi) September 22, 2017
Some viewers pointed out some irregularities they saw during Televisa’s broadcast of events. Twitter user @lydiacachosi pointed out that members of Televisa were photographed dressed in safety vests with the logo of the federal police instead of ones marked as media, leading some to believe there was some type of collusion between the two.
People were rightfully angered by the news that the rescue of Frida Sofia was nothing but a farce.
— Flor (@10e13a) September 21, 2017
Amidst the anger, some people managed to find humor in the situation.
— Luis León Dl Rey?? (@Luisleva92) September 22, 2017
If you’re a fan of “The Simpsons,” you may remember the Timmy O’Toole episode where Bart dropped a microphone speaker into a well and pretended to be a young boy who needed to be rescued. The media was all over the O’Toole rescue and the town of Springfield rallied around the boy — until they found out it was all a prank.
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