Journalist questions viral CNN interview of nurse who claimed 'deathbed denialism' of coronavirus

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Journalist David Zweig feels that CNN and other liberal media outlets didn’t do enough reporting to determine the scoop of a viral interview in which a nurse claimed many people who are dying from coronavirus don’t believe the virus is real.

Zweig penned the column “Are COVID Patients Gasping ‘It Isn’t Real’ As They Die?” for the tech publication Wired, declaring, “An ER nurse’s anecdote of deranged denialism went viral. But when the media caught wind of the story, reporters didn’t do their jobs.”


The New York-based Zweig – who is an author and columnist who has written for The Atlantic, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among other outlets – examined a recent CNN interview in which South Dakota emergency room nurse Jodi Doering said that people dying from coronavirus often don’t believe it.

"It wasn’t one particular patient. It’s just a culmination of so many people, and their last, dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening, it’s not real.’ And when they should be spending time FaceTiming their families, they’re filled with anger and hatred, and it just made me really sad,” the nurse told CNN on “New Day” during an interview with Alisyn Camerota, who then asked if the anger and hatred is directed at Doering.

“I think it’s just a belief that its not real and nursing happens to be on the receiving end of that,” Doering responded.


CNN’s interview went viral, with one clip piling up over 5.5 million views on Twitter. It was shared by politicians, picked up by other news outlets and parroted by prominent journalists. But Zweig felt things were fishy and did a little digging.

“There’s no doubt that we owe a deep debt of gratitude to Jodi Doering and all the front-line medical personnel dealing with the current surge in COVID cases. The work they do is truly heroic. Still, the manner in which Doering’s account of her experience has been reported and circulated should give people pause,” he wrote.

“Doering’s statement that she’s watched “so many” people die from the disease even as they deny its very existence, endlessly repeated on social media and presented by news outlets without corroboration, would seem to represent a broader phenomenon,” Zweig continued. “But other nurses who work in similar settings say they’ve seen nothing of the kind.”

Zweig then detailed that he contacted other hospitals in the same area of South Dakota but nobody else seemed to have the same experience as Doering.

“At my request, Kim Rieger, the VP for communications and marketing at Huron Regional Medical Center, one of the four medical facilities where Doering works, spoke with several nurses at Huron to get their reactions to the CNN interview. None said they’d interacted with COVID patients who denied having the disease,” Zweig wrote. “This in no way means that Doering’s account is untrue. But it provides, at minimum, some important context that was completely absent from the CNN interview and from all the media amplification that followed.”


Zweig feels that “little or no effort was made to assess the scope of the problem that Doering so memorably described” before reporters echoed her claims. He listed The Daily Beast, HuffPost and The Washington Post as outlets that covered Doering’s claims, with some stories “framed as an astounding embodiment of red-state denialism.”

“Doering’s account is similarly a perfect fit for a narrative that has already been written, and one that has been passed along by respected people and prestigious outlets with scarcely any diligence at all,” Zweig wrote. “Even just a small amount of additional reporting suggests that her experience of encountering deathbed denialism… could be more of a disturbing anomaly than a window on our troubled times.”

CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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