Deadline apologizes after mistakenly publishing draft story claiming VP Pence has CORONAVIRUS, driving speculation

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Deadline apologizes after mistakenly publishing draft story claiming VP Pence has CORONAVIRUS, driving speculation
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9 October 2020
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A screenshot of a draft story claiming Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the coronavirus, which was published mistakenly by Deadline. © deadline.com

The online entertainment news site Deadline has issued a mea culpa after accidentally publishing a draft story claiming Vice President Mike Pence had contracted Covid-19, fueling a flurry of rumors about the VP’s health.

The premature story went well beyond the type of placeholder draft that news organizations often create for obituaries, featuring wild speculation from “armchair epidemiologists” who conjectured that Pence’s ‘bloody eye’ seen during Wednesday night’s VP debate indicated a coronavirus infection. An anonymous senior Trump administration official has since provided a far more mundane explanation, telling Politico the redness was caused by a burst blood vessel.

The story stoked confusion across the internet, adding to earlier rumors and speculation that Pence had tested positive for the illness after he canceled a trip to Indiana set for Friday, instead returning to Washington.

A spokesperson for Pence, Katie Miller, slammed the report as “utterly false,” calling Deadline “irresponsible” for the bizarre blunder, while Pence’s press secretary insisted“Nobody's sick. There's no positive tests,” adding “The VP is planning on traveling on Saturday and Monday. We'll have more information on the vice president's schedule next week soon.”

Earlier, Miller sought to dispel theories about Pence’s travel schedule and what it could mean for his health, saying the VP had always intended to return to DC before heading to Indiana, though did not explain the canceled trip. An adviser for Pence later clarified the decision was linked to a “scheduling issue” and was “definitely not health related.”

The official denials from Pence’s spokespeople have done little to quell the online rumor mill, however, as netizens ran with speculation about the VP’s health status, some voicing rock-solid certainty about a positive Covid diagnosis.

Deadline acknowledged the mistake in an unsigned statement on Thursday, hours after publishing a story headlined “Vice President Mike Pence Tests Positive For Coronavirus 8 Days After Donald Trump.” Though the title included an apparent note for editors – “PREP. DO NOT PUBLISH UNTIL THE NEWS CROSSES” – the all-caps disclaimer went unnoticed before the piece went live and the damage was done.

“A draft post of a story about Vice President Mike Pence testing positive for coronavirus that was never meant to publish was accidentally posted on Deadline. It was pulled down immediately,” the outlet said.

    It never should have been posted and Deadline will take steps to see this kind of thing never happens again. Apologies to the Vice President and our readers. We regret the error.

Many observers were bewildered by the accidental publication, deeming it “unbelievable” and an “editor’s nightmare.” It remains unclear how the story could have gone out mistakenly, as publishing typically involves a multi-step process rather than one errant click – saying nothing of the unmistakable editor’s note attached to the piece. Some netizens demanded a better accounting for the mix-up, deeming Deadline’s brief statement “not acceptable.”

 

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