Website Link in Pagedown Footer changing on knit

I am creating a new template and css files for a pagedown document. One of the footer elements has a link to a website in the format:
<a href=https://theWebsite></a>
When the document is knitted the footer instead contains
as a clickable link that points to the correct location (https://theWebsite).

Is there a simple explanation for why the additional text in the brackets is being added and how to avoid it? If more information is needed I'll see about building a reprex.

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