A video of the slipup, which occurred in a segment introduced by female anchor Anja Charlet on Wednesday's noon edition of the Heute news show, has spread rapidly on the internet.
“The companies Yahoo and Google have also become victims of the so-called fisting attacks,” said the male news reader Elmar Bartel, referring to recent reports that some 20,000 email accounts from major providers had been hacked.
“Phishing” is a scam that tricks email users into revealing their personal information for illegal purposes, while “fisting,” on the other hand, is an activity involving the use of the fist for sexual gratification.
ZDF published an explanation on Thursday evening, attributing the error by Bartel to a “misread letter.”
“I somehow connected the terms ‘philistine' or ‘sophisticated' with ‘phishing' in my head,” Bartel said in the article. “The phonetic similarity played a trick on me.”
Bartel added that the mistake did not occur to him until he heard it during the live broadcast, during which “everyone laughed.”
According to ZDF, the video clip was rapidly picked up on YouTube and “countless” Twitter feeds, forums and blogs – one of which called the flub an “epic fail.”
“One should give more thought to the background of words, myself included,” Bartel concluded.