Dan Cooper—a subject recently revisited—in the swirl of breaking news, got erroneously reported in the media as “D. B. Cooper,” who was someone else entirely, picked out of a phone book. Even though the error is always explained, the “D. B.” seems indelibly ingrained in the public’s minds.
Australia’s Tamam Shud guy—the initial news report of him printed a typo of the Persian phrase for ‘it is finished’ (تمام شد), and ever since then, he’s always under the heading of “Taman” Shud, which would be Persian for ‘it became calm’ (طةأن شد) if anything. An obvious typo, not surprising considering how few Australian typesetters happened to know Persian. Even though people interested enough to read about the mystery will learn the correct spelling, the typo has stuck firmly.
There have got to be more examples like this? There are lots of cases where breaking news got something wrong, but soon afterward the truth was established. I’m looking for initial errors that persist for many years, even despite later corrections.