Stephen King spread misinformation about FL COVID deaths – fact-checkers had nothing to say about it

On Friday, author Stephen King tweeted a claim that 1,200 people died from COVID in a single day in Florida. That claim was simply not true.

In reality, Florida had reported 1,296 new COVID deaths on Friday, but those deaths were derived from weeks of data. Information readily available at the time of his tweet, such as reporting from Florida’s Local 10, showed that Florida’s COVID numbers were based on weeks worth of data. Furthermore, the actual number of COVID deaths in Florida on Friday, as reported by Worldometers, was 9.

Despite King’s misrepresentation of weeks worth of data as the result of a single day, none of the major fact-checking outlets issued any fact-checks of his claim. As of this writing, PolitiFact has not fact-checked King for the claims he made about Florida’s COVID deaths. Neither has FactCheck.org, or Snopes.com, or AP Fact Check or AFP’s Fact Check or USA Today’s fact-checking wing. Of note, King’s tweet has been used to criticize a Republican governor, Ron DeSantis.

King eventually admitted he was wrong in his initial tweet, but he still sought to criticize DeSantis in his apology and still misrepresented information about Florida’s COVID cases.

In his apology tweet, King said the 1200 number is not derived from one day “but over the course of one week, possibly more.”

The COVID death records were not derived from one week either. According to the Miami Herald, about 60 percent of the deaths were recorded in the past two weeks, meaning the remaining 40 percent of the deaths were recorded more than two weeks ago. 19 of the deaths occurred before August 11. King’s assertion that the deaths happened in one week and “possibly more” gives the impression they all most likely happened last week but some could have happened before that, when in reality the large portion of the deaths occurred more than two weeks ago entirely.

King’s dishonest tweets have garnered tens of thousands of likes, tens of thousands of retweets and tens of thousands of comments.

The quality of a fact-checker is not just determined by the fact-checks they get right, but also by what they choose to fact-check. In recent days, some of these same fact-checkers issued demerits for truthful claims that reflected poorly on Democrat President  Joe Biden, and even stood up straw-man claims to demerit Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, but no fact-checker felt compelled to fact-check a verifiably false claim by an avowed liberal author criticizing a Republican governor. Many of the popular fact-checkers exhibit a bias both by the work they do and the work they refuse to do.

 

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