In the early afternoon, on a Friday in August, Earhart walked into the 9News studio and settled onto a stool in the middle of the room. The overhead light was hot and bright.
The senior creative-services producer and the director of marketing and promotion were in the room with her, at the edge of the diffused glow. These were men Earhart had known and trusted for the better part of her time at the television station, and now she was thankful they were with her in the room. In the control booth, the general manager watched quietly. What Earhart did next, as she would say later, was to report the facts of a story as they had changed. It just happened the story was her life, and the facts, to her, felt devastating. She was setting the record straight, she would say. To anyone who would watch her later on television or online, it would be hard not to see the moment as anything other than a confession. It took two takes.
“Discovering who I’m not has led me to fully and finally understand who I really am,” she began. “In the last 24 hours, new information from a team of researchers that I hired shows that while I share a name and a passion for flying with the first Amelia Earhart, we are not from the same family. While I am her namesake, nothing in life is ever really as simple as we want them to be.” Over the next two minutes, she explained growing up with the family story about the Earhart link, how she hired a genealogist when she was in college, how the first Amelia had inspired her life. How the genealogists she’d now hired had traced more than 30 lines of the Earhart name to the United States and none had linked with hers. “It’s tough to hear something you’ve believed your whole life just isn’t true,” she admitted to viewers. “But I’m still the same Amelia Earhart. And in 2014 I’m going to fly around the world in honor of the pilot whose name I share.”
After the taping, the people in the control room thanked Earhart for her candidness. The producers went away to put together the package that would air during the 4 o’clock newscast. Earhart didn’t wait to see the finished product. She went to her car and cried.
She drove to her townhome, took a shower, and opened her laptop. She put together a note for all of her social media accounts that explained the situation. “I was shaking like a leaf,” she says now. The message was a condensed version of what she’d said to the camera a short time earlier. Earhart posted it and immediately felt like a weight had been lifted. “At that point, the reaction was out of my control,” she says. “If you truly know me, you probably know I’m not a bad person. If you don’t know me, then….”
Not long after posting her message, she drove to a friend’s fashion show 15 miles away in Douglas County. Earhart was expected to be one of the runway models, and as she waited for makeup, she could see friends scanning their phones, whispering among themselves. They’d seen the video; read the online statement. “I don’t want to ruin the night,” she told her friends when they tried to console her. She wanted to move on.
Except, of course, that’s impossible when your name is Amelia Earhart and you’re flying around the world in 2014. As she was having makeup applied to her face, she looked out a window toward some pine trees. Another woman, a Denver Broncos cheerleader, was seated in a chair next to Earhart. The woman introduced herself. Earhart did the same.
“Oh, my God,” the woman said. “That’s so cool your name is Amelia Earhart. Are you related?”