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David Pogue on the misinformation and misunderstandings swirling around the Titanic submersible

The tech journalist, who observed an OceanGate trip last year, said submersible conspiracy theorists have a “fundamental lack of understanding of the deep-sea diving industry.”
Photo illustration of the Titan submersible, the search by Canadian forces, repeated eyes looking in different directions, and spiraling circles.
The submergible vessel fueled conspiracy theories online. Chelsea Stahl / NBC News; Getty Images

Tech journalist and “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent David Pogue, who observed an OceanGate Expeditions Titanic shipwreck trip in 2022, the last before the Titan submersible’s disappearance this week, told NBC News that a “massive amount of misinformation” has circulated online this week. The five passengers aboard are presumed dead after the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday announced debris “consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel” was found.  

In an interview, Pogue, whose coverage of the submersible in 2022 has attracted renewed interest in light of the disaster, also responded to attacks on his reporting over the past two days. Critics on Twitter have suggested that Pogue and other journalists undersold how dangerous the submersible was or even that he conspired to shield the company from accountability. 

Pogue countered that the safety issues were the “centerpiece” of his OceanGate coverage.

“There is a fundamental lack of understanding of the deep-sea diving industry process,” Pogue said. 

Pogue’s comments come as OceanGate conspiracies have spread across the internet — even Meek Mill, a rapper with 11.3 million followers, tweeted that the story was too far-fetched to be legitimate, writing, “I can’t see a wealthy man doing this with no extreme back up plans.”

Pogue said there is a wide range of dangerous adventure tourism that caters to the rich.

Follow NBC News’ live coverage for updates on Titan

“People do not understand the context. There are rich people who climb Mount Everest. There are rich people who go up in rockets. There are rich people who dive with sharks,” Pogue said. “This is the extreme adventure business, and for this rarified sector of people, the danger is what makes it thrilling. The risk of death gives meaning to their lives.”

After news broke Monday of the Coast Guard’s search-and-rescue mission to find the Titan, Pogue tweeted about his 2022 reporting. In response to a question about whether the submersible had a rescue beacon, Pogue replied that it was discussed by OceanGate after the Titan was “lost for about 5 hours” during the expedition he observed from the control room above water. 

In his reporting, Pogue said he did get into the vessel, which submerged about 40 feet, but that technical issues stopped them from visiting the Titanic. 

Pogue said he observed the next day’s expedition from the control room on the ship. That day, the Titan submersible took paying customers down to the ocean floor, but they never reached the Titanic wreckage. Pogue said the Titan was lost for several hours but could still communicate with the control ship over text messages.

“They could still send short texts to the sub, but did not know where it was,” Pogue wrote in a reply on Twitter. “It was quiet and very tense, and they shut off the ship’s internet to prevent us from tweeting.” In another reply, Pogue wrote that OceanGate’s reasoning for the internet shut-off was in case emergency communication channels were needed. 

Pogue’s tweets have since been widely scrutinized, with some claiming he didn’t mention enough of the details in his original report. Pogue has engaged with much of the criticism, clarifying some misconceptions, but he has still become a character in some conspiracies that have sprung up around his work. 

“Most people get it and are in the right place, but Twitter is Twitter, and there’s this vocal minority of really toxic people and conspiracy theorists who have perhaps an outsized role in the conversation you see,” he said in the interview. “I’ll think ‘Wow, here’s another really cruel person’ and I realize it’s the same person I’ve read seven times before and they have six followers.”

Pogue noted a major difference in the recent trip that ended in disaster. This time, the Titan wasn’t just lost — the submersible also stopped communicating with the control ship. Pogue said the timeline he has seen indicates it took most of the day before OceanGate reported the Titan’s disappearance to the Coast Guard.

“There are a number of incidents like that, where there’s a plausible explanation for the way OceanGate behaved, and then there’s a cynical explanation,” Pogue said. “There are a few occasions like this where you can look at it with a conspiratorial eye or an understanding eye.”

In his coverage of the submersible, Pogue explored how things could — and did — go wrong. On camera, he read through the contract signed by all passengers, noting that “permanent physical disability, emotional trauma, or death” were possible outcomes of riding the submersible, as well as working and living on the ship above water for the duration of the nine-day trip. 

Pogue also noted that the custom-built submersible was not subject to any regulatory standards. His reporting showed that Titan parts included a handheld game controller, lights purchased from a camping supplies store, and what Pogue described as a “jerry-rigged” interior. 

“Looking back, now that we know there was a tragedy, of course there were things they could have done differently,” Pogue said.