NBC News altered a headline after Paul Kessler, a Jewish man, was killed following an “altercation” with pro-Palestinian protesters at a rally in California.
Kessler “was in a physical altercation with counter-protestor(s)” during which he “fell backwards and struck his head on the ground,” the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
The statement explained that the “Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death to be blunt force head injury and the manner of death homicide.”
The original headline from NBC News appeared to emphasize only that Kessler died after hitting his head: “Man dies after hitting head during Israel and Palestinian rallies in California, officials say.”
The updated headline gave the context that Kessler died after an “altercation” with protesters: “Jewish man dies after hitting head in altercation at dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies in California.”
The outlet failed to include a note for readers that the headline had been altered.
Outrage against the original headline spread quickly online.
“What is this headline, @NBCNews? You can’t claim you didn’t have enough information because your own article cites the medical examiner calling it a homicide…” noted conservative X user AGHamilton29.
Political commentator Joe Walsh wrote that misleading headlines have caused the American public to lose trust the media. “This is why for so long so many Americans have rightly had a big problem with the mainstream media. What a shi–y, cowardly headline.”
The sheriff’s department said it is continuing to investigate the incident and the “possibility of a hate crime” has not been ruled out.
Video posted online shows Kessler on the ground bleeding and holding his head. A protester holding a “Free Palestine” sign and wearing a Palestinian flag embroidered on her jacket could be seen leaning over him.
A local man who was at the protest met Kessler minutes before he died, though he did not witness the altercation. The man, who did not want to be named, shared with Fox News Digital that he left to get something from his car and, when he returned, he saw Kessler “lying on the ground with blood everywhere.”
Multiple onlookers dialed 911 but were unable to get through, including the alleged perpetrator, the man shared.
The witness shared that Kessler “was out,” but had “moments where he lifted his head, touched the back of his head [and] lifted his legs up.”
“He took a very hard jar to the back of his head. His brain must’ve [been] swollen,” the man told Fox News Digital.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles wrote in a post on X Monday evening that the pro-Palestinian protester threw a megaphone at Kessler.