Zhengzhou

Man who doesn't work for Foxconn kills self. Apple's fault?

May 20, 2013: 12:37 PM ET

A suicide story that broke on Saturday had fallen apart by Monday.

Suicide nets on a Foxconn factory. Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee.

Anti-suicide nets on a Foxconn factory. Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee.

FORTUNE -- The Agence France Press headline that moved over the business wires Saturday morning seemed like deja vu all over again:

Three new factory suicides at Apple supplier Foxconn

Citing only a statement issued by China Labor Watch in New York, the news agency reported that the deaths occurred at a Foxconn factory in the central city of Zhengzhou and included a 30-year-old married man who died on May 14, a 23-year-old woman (April 27) and a 24-year-old man (April 24).

Although Apple (AAPL) was named in the headline, it wasn't until the fifth paragraph that AFP mentioned that Foxconn also assembles products for Sony (SNE) and Nokia (NOK).

The piece might also have named Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOG), HP (HPQ), Dell (DELL), Nintendo and Microsoft (MSFT), among others. But it didn't.

And it wasn't until two days later, when the Wall Street Journal reported Foxconn's version of events, that we learned that two of the suicides occurred outside the company's property and were not, according to Foxconn, work-related.

As for the third victim -- the 24-year-old man who died on April 24 -- he didn't work for the company at all. He had, however, applied for a job at Foxconn. As if that makes a difference.

Although the Journal is to be commended for following up, we note that as far as it's concerned, Apple is the only company that matters -- or at least the only one worth mentioning -- when bad things happen in a Foxconn factory town.

As Macworld's Michael Kan once put it: "Foxconn builds products for many vendors, but its mud sticks to Apple."

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