Fox News mistakenly reported Thursday that longtime Florida Rep. Bill Young died, an error picked up and reported as fact by other news outlets until the network later corrected itself.
The rumor of Young's demise was sparked when Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson reported on air that the Florida Republican had passed away after "serving a remarkable 22 terms." As she spoke, a profile photo of the 82-year-old lawmaker — who has been battling health issues for years — and the text "Rep Bill Young (R-FL) 1930-2013" was shown to viewers.
Carlson later apologized on air for falsely announcing Young's death, saying, "Hopefully that won't happen again."
But before Fox corrected its mistake, other news outlets and reporters spread the false rumor — many without attribution — via social media.
The lawmaker's hometown newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, said his office confirmed he is "gravely ill," but not dead.
Young, the longest-serving House Republican and one of Florida's most influential lawmakers, said last week he won't seek a 23rd term next year. He made the announcement from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he was receiving treatment for an ailing back.
Young, who has served his St. Petersburg-area district since 1971, is a former chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. He is best known on Capitol Hill as a stalwart advocate of the armed forces, serving for years on the panel's military and veterans subcommittee.
This wasn't the first time Young has been reported dead. The National Journal reported in 2011 that Young called Capitol Police to inform them he was alive after rumors circulated in Florida that he wasn't.