‘Superspreader of misinformation’: New York Times corrects story that exaggerated child Covid-19 hospitalizations by over 90%

The New York Times had to issue a doozy of a correction on an article by its Covid-19 reporter Apoorva Mandavilli, who somehow inflated the number of US children hospitalized with the virus to 14 times the actual level.

Mandavilli claimed in her article, published on Tuesday, that nearly 900,000 Covid-infected children had been hospitalized in the US since the pandemic began. As the Times admitted on Thursday, the available data shows that the correct figure from August 2020 to October 2021 was more than 63,000.

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The inaccuracies didn’t stop there. The correction also noted that contrary to Mandavilli’s reporting, Sweden and Denmark haven’t begun offering single-dose vaccines to children. The newspaper added that the story misstated the timing of an upcoming FDA meeting regarding proposed use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children as young as five years old.

The scale of the erroneous hospitalization figure was reminiscent of gaffes by President Joe Biden, such as saying 120 million Americans had died from Covid-19 and 150 million had been killed by gun violence. It’s not clear how the blunder occurred, but the mainstream media has been accused of hyping the severity of the pandemic. A hidden-camera investigation by Project Veritas in April purported to show a CNN technical director saying the outlet purposely stoked fears of Covid-19 to boost ratings.

Ironically, the Times itself has decried Covid-19 misinformation. For instance, the newspaper posted an article earlier this week vilifying Dr. Joseph Mercola as “the most influential spreader of coronavirus misinformation.” In August, the Times said ‘Russian disinformation’ was being spread to suggest that the Biden administration would impose a Covid-19 vaccine mandate. A month later, Biden ordered that healthcare facilities, federal contractors and businesses with more than 100 employees force their workers to be inoculated, taking the choice over getting the jab away from about 100 million Americans.

While the Times and other mainstream outlets have billed themselves as the arbiters of truth, Mandavilli’s error-laced article is only the latest in a long line of inaccurate reporting by the newspaper. For example, the newspaper falsely claimed that Russia had offered bounties on American troops in Afghanistan and that police officer Brian Sicknick was murdered by pro-Trump rioters at the US Capitol.

“The New York Times is a superspreader of misinformation,” said Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Mandavilli stirred anger among conservatives in May, when she said the theory that Covid-19 leaked from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology had “racist roots.” She later deleted her Twitter post, lamenting that the pushback to her remark had been “ridiculous.”

“Someday, we will stop talking about the lab-leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots,” Mandavilli said in the original tweet. “But alas, that day is not yet here.”

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It’s not clear why the reporter was rooting for the lab leak theory to go away, as even chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said it should be investigated after previously trying to squash the notion.

The Wall Street Journal had reported two days earlier that three scientists at the Wuhan lab had been hospitalized with Covid-19 symptoms in the fall of 2019, near the time when the first cases of the virus were reported in China.

The Times’ former lead reporter on Covid-19, Pulitzer Prize nominee Donald McNeil Jr., resigned under pressure in February after co-workers campaigned for his firing. His sin was responding to a high school student’s question about a classmate’s use of the N-word by repeating the slur when he asked for context on how it was used. He had worked for the newspaper since 1976.

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