Fact check: Misleading claim about COVID-19 vaccine and a New York Times editor's death

·4 min read

The claim: New York Times editor bragged about getting his COVID-19 booster shortly before dying of a heart attack

A post on the website The True Defender claims an editor at The New York Times died shortly after receiving his COVID-19 booster shot and posting a video about it.

"Carlos Tejada was an editor for The New York Times, who played along with the Dems and posted a video about him bragging on getting the COVID 3rd booster shot," the Defender article published in January 2022 reads. "But within 24 hours of receiving the booster and publishing the video online, Tejada died from a heart attack."

The Defender article embeds the supposed video, posted to Twitter. It shows a man first grimly sharing he received his booster before the tone of the video shifts and he explains why other people should receive their booster shots, too. At the end of the video, a screenshot of Tejada's Twitter is pulled up where his wife announced his death.

The website's post was shared more than 100 times on Facebook, according to the social media analytics tool CrowdTangle.

The article is off base on several fronts.

The core claim – connecting the booster shot to the heart attack – leaves out the crucial context that there is no proof those two events are related, as there has been no evidence linking the vaccines to heart attacks.

But the Defender story also mangles its evidence, as the video purported to be Tejada actually shows a Canadian internet personality, not Tejada.

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USA TODAY reached out to the Defender and the Twitter user who shared the video for comment.

Man in video isn't NYT editor

Tejada, deputy Asia editor of The New York Times, died Dec. 17 of a heart attack in Seoul, South Korea, according to his obituary in the Times.

Danielle Rhoades Ha, a spokesperson for The New York Times, confirmed the details of Tejada's death to USA TODAY in an email.

"Mr. Tejada received a booster shot on Dec. 17 in Seoul, the same day as his death by aortic dissection (heart attack)," Rhoades Ha said. "According to medical professionals, there is no known connection between the two. Claims circulating online that would suggest a connection are inaccurate and misleading."

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But the video that purports to show Tejada in the Defender article actually shows a different man.

That man is Canadian internet personality Stewart Reynolds, more popularly known as Brittlestar. He posted the original video to YouTube on Dec. 17, the same day Tejada died.

In a tweet, Reynolds confirmed that he is the man in the video, not Tejada.

"It was brought to my attention today that one of my videos has been edited into an anti-vaccination clip suggesting that I died after my booster shot and that I’m a NYT editor...To clarify, and as is plainly evident: I am not a NYT editor," the Jan. 10 tweet reads.

Scant evidence tying COVID-19 shots, heart attacks

Heart attacks are not listed as a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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In Moderna's vaccine trial, about 0.03% of 30,000 human participants experienced heart attacks, USA TODAY previously reported. The FDA concluded that while serious adverse events, or SAEs, did occur in the trial, they did not occur frequently enough to be considered causally related.

In Pfizer's vaccine trial of over 43,000 participants, 0.02% experienced heart attacks. The study's investigators and the FDA concurred that the illnesses did not occur any more frequently than would be expected in any group of that size.

A different heart issue, myocarditis, is listed as a potential side effect of the vaccine. The CDC and FDA have verified 1,175 reports of myocarditis, or heart inflammation, after receiving the vaccine. Most patients who experienced myocarditis or pericarditis after vaccination "responded well to medicine and rest and felt better quickly," the CDC says.

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Our rating: Partly false

Based on our research, we rate PARTLY FALSE the claim that a New York Times editor bragged about getting his COVID-19 booster shortly before dying of a heart attack. Tejada was a New York Times editor and recently died of a heart attack after receiving his booster shot. But the video embedded in the article shows a Canadian internet personality, not Tejada, and there's no evidence the COVID-19 shots are causing heart attacks.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Man in COVID-19 vaccine video is not late NYT editor