Epidemiologist Slams ‘Malpractice’ In New York Times' Trump Coverage

Sara Boboltz

A Yale epidemiologist hit The New York Times on Tuesday morning over its coronavirus coverage after the paper ran a headline misrepresenting a claim by President Donald Trump on the state of coronavirus testing across America as true.

“Trump Suggests Lack of Testing Is No Longer a Problem. Governors Disagree,” read the headline to a March 30 story that was also featured prominently on the paper’s website homepage.

“This is journalistic malpractice,” tweeted Gregg Gonsalves, assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale and co-director of the school’s Global Health Justice Partnership.

The headline for the New York Times story that sparked outrage.

“If we don’t have scale-up of testing, we will be in lock-down for months & months,” he went on. “There is no debate on this, why frame it like there is one? Next: Trump says earth flat, scientists say otherwise.” 

Later, he added: “It matters that you’re failing, and it’s not about a lowly reader trying to score points, but the fact that @NYTimes [is] eliding, equivocating on the federal response has consequences for millions of people.” 

The Times is often accused of engaging in “both-sides-ism” — or giving improper weight to both sides of a particular argument when the facts heavily favor one side. (Think: when a cable news station would ask a climate change denier for comment, when we know climate change is real.) In its coverage of Trump, the Times is often accused of “balancing” a story by printing Trump’s comments as fact — he did say those things, after all — even as it describes the reality of a situation, a practice that can be particularly glaring in its headlines. The current public health crisis, though, means that getting the correct information out to readers comes with extremely high stakes.

By The New York Times’ own reporting, officials are still struggling to make up for lost time on testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Due to flaws in testing kits, regulatory delays, a...

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