CBS New York confirmed it fired a reporter who incorrectly claimed that a man living with HIV endangered the life of a Port Authority police officer by spitting on him, despite the fact HIV cannot be transmitted by saliva.
Gay City News was first to bring light to the situation by exposing the online story and inflammatory tweets. Citing privacy concerns, CBS refuses to identify the fired reporter by name.
“This online story should not have been published,” CBS New York said in a written statement. “It does not meet our journalistic standards, nor does it reflect our core values. The person who wrote and published the story and social media post failed to review the copy with our news managers. This individual is no longer employed by CBS New York.”
The article making the false claims does not have a byline, and the one reporter listed in the “filed under” section is not the reporter fired. Also left unresolved are statements by the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association (PAPBA) that portrayed the man as wielding his HIV status as a weapon.
“The problem is when a person with an infectious disease has a weapon, we have a problem with that,” PAPBA public information officer Bob Egbert said at the time. “A guy who knowingly has an infectious disease — that’s a problem.”
The union has not issued an apology or retraction for Egbert’s statement, which flies in the face of scientific fact and infuriated the LGBTQ community.
ACT UP NY, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, VOCAL-NY, Housing Works, Bailey House, and others took part in a demonstration at the Manhattan CBS headquarters last month in response to the article and tweets.
It's scientifically known that HIV is untransmittable when a person is on meds and their viral load is suppressed. Current outreach programs, including an ambitious federal program to halt new cases and ensure treatment and care is available to people currently living with HIV, seek to dispel the type of misinformation that was incorrectly peddled in this case.