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Richard Wilkins on why he reported the death of Jeff Goldblum

The man who now co-hosts Weekend Today Cameron Williams was the person who handed Richard Wilkins the erroneous information that actor Jeff Goldblum was dead, the entertainment presenter has revealed.

Wilkins, entertainment editor on Today, found himself an international figure of fun in 2009 after making the live announcement – based on a website hoax spread via Twitter – on the same morning that Michael Jackson died. As a result of Jackson’s death, Today had dropped the ad breaks, leaving the presenters under pressure to make instant decisions.

Wilkins told Mumbrella editor Tim Burrowes: “In the middle of that suddenly there’s all this stuff about Jeff Goldblum coming up. There’s lots of internet action on Jeff. Cam who was working as our sports guy at the time handed me a piece of paper – I don’t suggest for a moment he was trying to set me up, he was trying to keep me in the loop, I think.”

Wilkins added: “You want to be the first, but more importantly you should want to be right. We didn’t have the luxury of commercial breaks, we’re just ploughing into it. I made the statement that yes New Zealand police had confirmed it.

“It was mildly embarrassing.”

But Wilkins said the fault lay with him. He said: “I should have checked it.”

It had previously been assumed that Wilkins found the wrong information about Goldblum himself. But in his newly published book Black Ties, Red Carpets, Green Rooms, Wilkins tells readers: “I was handed a piece of paper by our sports guy Cameron Williams, who was monitoring the internet throughout the morning, saying that Jeff had died after falling off a cliff in New Zealand.

“A few minutes later another piece of paper was given to me saying the news had been confirmed by the New Zealand police.

“I simply trusted the information that Cam had given me, the myriad emails and the information we’d seen online.”

In the video interview with Mumbrella  above, Wilkins also discusses:

  • The Sunrise and Today battle
  • How EP Tom Malone changed the fortunes of Today
  • Being told “You hold the election in the palm of your hands”  in 2007 after witnessing a hotly contested exchange between politician Peter Garrett and Steve Price

Wilkins’ announcement of Goldblum’s death saw the actor react to news of his own death on The Colbert Show.

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