Fact check: Fake NYT opinion piece on teachers and bullying of unvaccinated students

The claim: An image shows a New York Times opinion article calling for teachers to permit bullying of unvaccinated students

In late December, some social media users expressed outrage at a fake New York Times opinion piece about bullying students who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Teachers Should Tolerate Bullying Towards Unvaccinated Students," reads the headline in the image, written in the newspaper's signature font. "As heartless as it may sound, it may be the only way to encourage parents to make the right choice."

The screenshot was posted Dec. 22 by Facebook pages for the libertarian super PACs Right Now USA and Right Now MN. It also appeared in numerous other Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts.

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However, the screenshot does not show a real New York Times article. The newspaper told USA TODAY it has not published any articles encouraging teachers to allow bullying of unvaccinated students.

"(The screenshot) was probably sent out to disturb parents and cause more divide," Cassie Howard, who posted the image Dec. 22, told USA TODAY in a Facebook message.

Erica Harp, lead nurse for Great Falls Public Schools, draws up a dose of the pediatric Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine during a Nov. 17 vaccine clinic in Montana.
Erica Harp, lead nurse for Great Falls Public Schools, draws up a dose of the pediatric Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine during a Nov. 17 vaccine clinic in Montana.

NYT didn't publish article

The New York Times is one of the most well-known newspapers in the world. If it had published an article like the one pictured in the online posts, it stands to reason there would be evidence of the article's existence online.

But there isn't.

USA TODAY could not find any articles matching the headline shown in the Facebook post. New York Times spokesperson Jordan Cohen confirmed the article is not real.

“The New York Times did not write or publish that headline,” Cohen said in an email.

The formatting of the article pictured in the screenshot also suggests it was fabricated.

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On the Times' website, each opinion article is labeled "Opinion" in red at the top, but the label in the screenshot is black. Genuine New York Times opinion articles also list the date at the top, while the screenshot does not.

Other independent fact-checking outlets, including Reuters and the Associated Press, have debunked the claim that the screenshot shows a real New York Times article.

Our rating: Altered

Based on our research, we rate ALTERED an image that claims to show a New York Times opinion article calling for teachers to permit bullying of unvaccinated students. There is no evidence the newspaper published an article with the headline pictured in the image.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Fake NYT headline on bullying unvaccinated students