Welcome back to “Forgotten Fact-Checks,” a weekly column produced by National Review’s News Desk. This week we have USA Today’s post-publication op-ed edits, mainstream media spin on a Texas education bill, and the Washington Post’s lightbulb moment on the lab-leak theory.
USA Today Bends to the Woke Mob
Former Connecticut high school runner Chelsea Mitchell authored an op-ed in USA Today this week titled “I was the fastest girl in Connecticut. But transgender athletes made it an unfair fight.”
“That’s a devastating experience. It tells me that I’m not good enough; that my body isn’t good enough; and that no matter how hard I work, I am unlikely to succeed, because I’m a woman,” Mitchell wrote of her losses to biologically male runners.
Cue the woke mob.
After backlash from transgender advocates, the outlet edited the essay after its publication and without consulting Mitchell to remove her “hurtful” use of the word “male” to describe the transgender athletes she was forced to compete against in high school track.
The editors affixed a note to the piece saying the column had been updated to “reflect USA TODAY’s standards and style guidelines. We regret that hurtful language was used.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal-advocacy organization representing Mitchell, has published the unaltered version on its website.
This is not the first time USA Today has edited an op-ed after publication in response to changing circumstances. But last time they did it, the changes seemed to have been made at the author’s behest.
The paper allowed Stacey Abrams to edit her March op-ed on Georgia’s Republican-backed voting law to downplay her support for boycotts.
Without appending a note to alert readers to the change, the paper let Abrams insert language signaling her opposition to boycotts after critics accused her of encouraging MLB to pull the All-Star game out of Atlanta.
In the original March 31 op-ed, Abrams wrote that she “can’t argue with” people who choose to boycott businesses in her state.
In the politically expedient second version, written after the Cobb County tourism board estimated that MLB’s move would cost area businesses $100 million in revenue, Abrams wrote that “Boycotts invariably cost jobs.”
A new Texas House bill aims to keep schools from weaponizing children with political agendas and teaching kids that they bear responsibility for the misdeeds of others throughout history based on their sex or skin color.
But that is not how the bill has been represented in the mainstream media. A recent report by the New York Times claims that Texas is pushing to “obscure the state’s history of slavery and racism.” An MSNBC headline read, “GOP pushing bill to ban teaching history of slavery,” while the Huffington Post reported that the bill “effectively bans public school teachers from talking about racism, white supremacy or current news events.”
Texas state representative Steve Toth told National Review that mainstream media outlets are lying about the bill, which he introduced: “The facts are very clear, very explicit, we don’t ban, we don’t discourage the discussion of anything.”
The bill simply prohibits teaching that “one race or sex is inherently superior,” that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive,” that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex,” and that “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”
An amendment to the bill would prohibit the teaching of the New York Times’s 1619 Project, which the Times has construed to mean the bill would limit how teachers can discuss racism in their classrooms.
The bill also says that teachers can’t be forced to discuss current events or controversial subjects and that, if they do, they must, “to the best of their ability, strive to explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”
“Talk about both sides of the issue,” Toth said. “What the Left’s angry about is . . . the fact that this bill precludes them from brainwashing our children.”
Headline Fail of the Week
This week’s headline fail goes to the Washington Post for its attempt to rewrite history with its piece “How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible.”
Many experts and reporters outside of the mainstream — including NR’s Jim Geraghty — have been shouting from the rooftops for months that the pandemic may have begun with a lab-leak in Wuhan, China. It was only mainstream outlets and Democrats who dismissed the very real possibility as a right-wing conspiracy theory for months.
More Headline Mischief
The New York Times in 2018: “White House Proposes $4.4 Trillion Budget That Adds $7 Trillion to Deficits”
The New York Times last week: “Biden to Propose $6 Trillion Budget to Make U.S. More Competitive”
Can anyone think of what may have changed?
The managing director of AJ+, an online news and current-events channel run by Al Jazeera Media Network, came under fire this week for a since-deleted tweet claiming that the “ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is anti-Semitism.” “Palestinians are Semites. Google it yourself. So stop your anti-Semitism. You know who you are. #PalestineBleedsWorldSleeps,” Dima Khatib tweeted to her more than 375,000 followers.
The tweet was deleted after Khatib was called out by social-media users, including Melissa Weiss, managing editor at Jewish Insider.
“This seems like a weird thing for the managing director of AJ+ to tweet when attacks against Jews have skyrocketed 80 percent in recent weeks,” Weiss wrote in response to Khatib.
This seems like a weird thing for the managing director of AJ+ to tweet when attacks against Jews have skyrocketed 80% in recent weeks.
Just kidding, it's actually very on brand. https://t.co/oqFNd2T5bi
— Melissa Weiss (@melissaeweiss) May 26, 2021
Meanwhile, an op-ed in the New York Times last week similarly turned heads with its headline: “Attacks on Jews Over Israel Are a Gift to the Right.” However, the headline was later amended to read, “The Crisis of Anti-Semitic Violence.”
Finally, in a blatant display of questionable reporting practices, NPR was forced to add a 647-word editor’s note to a piece about Flamin’ Hot Cheetos this week after the Los Angeles Times published a report disputing claims that NPR had made about the origins of the spicy snack.