Media

How Has This Viral COVID-19 Story Hit The New York Times With Zero Corroboration?

MARK FELIX/AFP via Getty Images

Shelby Talcott Media Reporter
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The New York Times has been criticized after running with an unverified story about a Texas man who died after attending a “COVID party.”

The newspaper published an article July 12 claiming that “a 30-year-old man who believed the coronavirus was a hoax and attended a ‘Covid party’ died after being infected with the virus.” The article cited Methodist Hospital in San Antonio’s chief medical officer Dr. Jane Appleby, who claimed the man told his nurse before dying that he believed the virus was a hoax and had attended the party.

“The Times could not independently verify Dr. Appleby’s account,” the publication’s current version of the article reads. “On Monday, the San Antonio health department said its contact tracers did not have any information ‘that would confirm (or deny)’ that such an event had happened there.”

“In recent days, the hospital distributed video of Dr. Appleby describing the case, along with a press statement. She did not say when or where the party took place, how many people attended or how long afterward the man was hospitalized with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. She said she was sharing the story to warn others, especially in Texas, where cases are surging.”

The publication quietly edited its article to include the above paragraphs and provide more skepticism, according to senior writer at the National Review Michael Brendan Dougherty.

“A closer look showed that not only were there no names named, but there was no date or location of the party and no other sources about where and whether it happened,” he added in an article about the story. “And then there was the curious fact that a dying man’s self-incriminating final words were relayed to the press. Who gave permission for that?”

According to archived versions of the NYT COVID-19 party article, the newspaper did quietly add in “a few paragraphs of hedging” following backlash, as Dougherty noted. Previously, one of the only paragraphs that indirectly noted the NYT was unable to verify the story was:

“She did not say when the party took place, how many people attended or how long after the event was the man hospitalized with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The man was not publicly identified.”

Prior to noting the “stealth edit,” Dougherty tweeted asking: “Isn’t it the job of journalists to convert hearsay claims into verified facts through the process of reporting?” He pointed out that “this story should have done that.”

“This story does not actually establish that the events it describes happened. Should have been reported out before publishing — it may be propagating an urban legend,” Josh Barro, the business columnist for NY Magazine, tweeted Monday. (RELATED: NBC News Spent Weeks Reporting On A Contributor’s Journey Battling Coronavirus – But He Never Had It)

Writer Jordan Schachtel called out ABC’s “Good Morning America,” which also ran with the unverified story. Schachtel tweeted various examples of how the story did not add up, adding that “the only hoaxes in this story are the several false narratives being spread by ABC.”

“No evidence of widespread ‘COVID parties’ Anonymous 30 year old, who is quoted as saying he first believed virus was a hoax, is not named. No evidence this person is real,” he noted.

“So this COVID patient was on his death bed and not intubated? Just, you know, chatting it up with a dr about his regrets about going to supposed COVID parties and stuff. 73 Pinocchios from me.”

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The NYT did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller.