Bad Journalism: Daily Beast Runs Vicious Hit Piece on Kristi Noem, It Falls Apart Upon Further Review

AP Photo/Stephen Groves

The Daily Beast published a piece Tuesday about South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) that was so brutally dishonest that I simply could not let it slide. In my view, it was a textbook example of incredibly bad journalism disguised as an “opinion” piece. Stick with me on this as I break it down, and I think (hope) you’ll find it worth the read.

Here’s how the DB framed the story in the tweets they posted about it:

Once I clicked on the link, the red-lettered headline blared out at you with the following disturbing message: Anti-Mask Guv’s Grandmother Died in Nursing Home Ravaged by COVID.

Judging by the responses to the tweet (which we’ll get more into in a minute), it was clear that people got the same impression I did: The DB insinuated that Noem was so negligent in her alleged disregard for COVID safety measures that she allowed her own grandmother to die of it during an outbreak in a nursing home.

The story was the absolute worst kind of clickbait, the kind you see on the pages of cheap tabloid trash magazines. The reason why this was nothing more than trash journalism was found once one went beyond the sensationalistic headline and read the article itself.

What we find out in the opening two paragraphs of the piece written by Michael Daly is that Noem’s grandmother, who was 98, did indeed die in a nursing home in November — but not from the Wuhan virus, according to the nursing home administrator:

On Monday, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem buried her grandmother, who was among 13 to die over a two-week period at a top-rated nursing home swept by COVID-19.

The 98-year-old grandmother, Aldys Arnold, is said by Noem’s office to have tested negative for the virus, though no cause of death was given. The other 12 of the 13 deaths between Nov. 14 and Nov. 28 at the Estelline Nursing Home are described by the administrator, Mike Ward, as “COVID-related.”

Daly then goes on to write over the course of several paragraphs that just because Noem’s grandmother didn’t die from COVID didn’t mean she wasn’t at least partly to blame for the deaths of the others at the nursing home, all because she has yet to mandate mask-wearing in the state.

But when you dig down into the piece several paragraphs, you find out that this particular nursing home is well-regarded in the state. You also learn that they implemented stringent COVID safety measures “long before anyone tested positive” – including a mask mandate and separating visitors from residents (bolded emphasis added):

And nobody could rightly blame the nursing home itself for failing to protect its residents as best it could. State and federal inspectors had consistently given the home their highest ratings, and its record is unblemished by so much as a single serious violation.

The family of one of the dead, 90-year-old Ardyce Apland, described Estelline to The Daily Beast as “excellent,” reporting that the home took extensive precautions against COVID-19 long before anybody there tested positive. Apland’s son-in-law, David Herrold, said visitors were required to wear masks and met with a resident in a separate room partitioned by Plexiglas and plastic sheeting.

Visitors and the residents were kept separated.

That information was 16 paragraphs down:

Just how did the virus get into the nursing home? Daly asked the nursing home administrator, and then proceeded to make some assumptions from there (without evidence, of course):

Then, as best as Ward can tell, an asymptomatic staffer brought the virus into the facility from the outside, presumably having caught it in the realm where masks are not required and where Noem has allowed people to gather in crowds as large as a quarter-million at a bike rally.

This is not really an astute assumption to make, and I’ll explain why. Back in August, my mom, dad, and I all caught the virus — this in spite of the fact that we did everything right and followed all the rules. Not only that, but you have to wear masks everywhere here in North Carolina. We have a Democratic governor and he’s gone the draconian route much like other Democratic governors did in their states.

And yet, we still got it.

In reality, we don’t know how the virus got into the South Dakota nursing home nor who (or what) brought it in nor how they caught it. But because Daly wants to blame Noem (starting off with making the disgusting insinuation that she basically killed her grandmother) for all the COVID deaths in South Dakota he assumes the nursing home outbreak started because Noem hasn’t locked her state down like the magnificent governor of New York did (because that worked so well, didn’t it?).

The three tweets below are just a few of the numerous examples I saw proving that the Daily Beast’s despicable clickbait worked:

That Michael Daly has issues with Noem’s handling of the pandemic outbreak in her state is fine. I’ve got issues with the way Gov. Cuomo handled it in New York, and write about it often.

But what Daly did here was extraordinarily cruel on a personal level and exceptionally dishonest from a journalistic perspective. He made a sick (and false) insinuation about the death of Noem’s grandmother and then used it the day after she was laid to rest to leapfrog into a blame game about COVID deaths at the nursing home in which she lived.

It’s only when you dive into the article that you find out that not only did she not die from COVID, but that the nursing home that cared for her put in strict safety guidelines that were even more rigorous than what even the CDC recommends well before any outbreak started.

Furthermore, he assumes, without evidence, that whoever brought it in got it because Noem hasn’t pulled a Cuomo on the state and locked it down tight. For all we know, it could have come in from packages or supplies that were delivered, or from someone who did as my mom, dad, and I did — everything right — but still caught it nevertheless.

Daly used his valuable platform as a writer to horribly mislead readers into believing one thing when the story itself said something completely different once you dived deeper into it. Regardless of what political side you fall on, one thing objective and opinion writers alike should always strive to do is to accurately inform their readers to the best of their knowledge and ability, not deliberately deceive and sensationalize — especially not over something like this.

Calling this “journalistic malpractice” would be the understatement of the year. But I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised considering the fact that disgraced Never Trumper Rick Wilson is part of the editorial team.

That, in and of itself, speaks volumes, and none of it good.

Related: Gov. Kristi Noem Shuts Down CBS News Over ‘Misleading’ Report on South Dakota COVID Cases