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Miami Herald faces backlash for running 'misleading' headline on Florida COVID-19 deaths

Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Miami Herald used what many are calling a "misleading" headline on an article about COVID-19 deaths in Florida, which garnered thousands of clicks and shares from detractors of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Miami Herald published an article with the headline: "Florida COVID update: 901 added deaths, largest single-day increase in pandemic history."

The headline caused a stir because the deadliest day for the entire United States during the pandemic was on Jan. 7 with 4,489 new coronavirus deaths, according to Worldometer. However, the headline didn't reveal the entire story about the 901 COVID-19 newly reported deaths in Florida.

The headline was also utilized by critics of DeSantis, the Republican governor who bucked many coronavirus policies and stances embraced by Democrats. The article was shared on Twitter by MSNBC personalities, Lincoln Project employees, and liberals.

Leftists even compared the disingenuous COVID-19 framing to the U.S. service members who died in the terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. Other Twitter users weaponized the headline to attack DeSantis.

The article received massive exposure and thousands of "likes" by being shared on social media.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel also used a questionable headline, claiming that there were "901 new deaths," instead of specifically saying "newly reported deaths."

Florida did not encounter 901 COVID-19 deaths in one single day, but over the course of weeks.

"Florida on Thursday reported 21,765 more COVID-19 cases and 901 deaths to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Miami Herald calculations of CDC data," the Miami Herald wrote in its article. "All but two of the newly reported deaths occurred after July 25, with about 78% of those people dying in the past two weeks, according to Herald calculations of data published by the CDC. The majority of deaths happened during Florida's latest surge in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the delta variant."

The day the Miami Herald article was published, there were eight COVID-19 deaths reported in Florida and the 7-day moving average was 53 deaths, according to Worldometer. The most coronavirus deaths in Florida for one day is 242 on Aug. 5, 2020.

Devoun Cetoute, the Miami Herald reporter who wrote the story, reacted to the backlash.

"Reading the story and our transparency note would explain so much," Cetoute tweeted. "CDC reports 901 more deaths to FL death total = single day increase Death data is now by when people died not when FL reports it. All explained in story."

Christina Pushaw, the press secretary for DeSantis, skewered the Miami Herald for the headline.

"'Factually accurate' but misleading narrative framing," Pushaw wrote on Twitter. "Omitted that the 901 deaths occurred over a period of weeks, so readers wrongly assume it's a single-day death toll. A lie of omission is still a lie."

"It's sensationalistic and dishonest to imply that 901 people died in a day when was actually a culmination of several weeks of data being reported at once," Pushaw told Fox News. "By the same logic the Miami Herald used in its misleading headline, the liberal media could also say 'New York reported 12,000 deaths in a single day,' but of course they will not."

Pushaw was referring to the announcement made by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) this week, where she said that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) undercounted 12,000 COVID-19 deaths in the state.

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