USA Today blasted for stealth edits on Stacey Abrams boycott op-ed

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The push by Democratic powerbroker Stacey Abrams to distance herself from the Georgia boycott calls has ensnared USA Today, which was accused of providing her cover by allowing her — or somebody — to water down an op-ed on boycotts.

Since its publication March 31, the op-ed by Ms. Abrams originally headlined “3 ways for corporations to show they get what’s at stake on voting rights” has undergone significant changes as she denies that she ever favored a boycott in response to the state’s recently passed election law.

Flagging the changes was Matt Whitock, vice president at CRC Advisors and a former Republican strategist, who called the post-publication edits a “[c]lear attempt to cover tracks” by making the article “MORE anti-boycott.”

He called it an “incredible scandal — which would have a lot more attention if it were about a Republican and not media darling Stacey Abrams.”

Both versions of the op-ed still begin, “Boycotts work,” but in the original version, Ms. Abrams said that sports and entertainment events “hang in the balance” amid calls for a boycott.

“At the same time, activists urge Georgians to swear off of hometown products to express our outrage,” she said in the March 31 rendition. “Until we hear clear, unequivocal statements that show Georgia-based companies get what’s at stake, I can’t argue with an individual’s choice to opt for their competition.”

Those two sentences are now gone, as shown on a screen grab, replaced with, “Major League Baseball pulled both its All-Star Game and its draft from Georgia, which could cost our state nearly $100 million in lost revenue.”

“I think removing the line ‘I can’t argue with an individuals [sic] choice to opt out’ from her op-ed after the MLB move makes pretty clear she sees it as a vulnerability,” said Mr. Whitlock.

Tracking the changes was Pluribus editor Jeryl Bier, who said the revisions appear to have been made April 6, but that USA Today did not acknowledge the updates with an editor’s note until April 22.

The newspaper now has the following post atop the article: “Editor’s note: This column was originally published before the MLB moved the All-Star game out of Atlanta. It was updated after that decision.”

Ms. Abrams insists that she never supported a boycott over the passage last month of the Georgia Election Integrity Act, which she has decried as “Jim Crow in a suit and tie,” while Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has accused her of a “flip flop.”

Meanwhile, USA Today, the nation’s largest-circulation newspaper, has come under criticism for allowing the heavy edits following publication even with the belated editor’s note.

“When politicians can stealth-edit op-ed columns a week after they publish, you have not just broken fact-checking. You have broken journalism,” tweeted Transport Dive reporter Jim Stinson, adding that USA Today’s opinion page “has a lot to answer for.”

Heritage Foundation communications associate director John Cooper tweeted: “So USA Today is admitting they made changes suggested by Stacey Abrams to an op-ed she had written, edits which made her look better after the fact? Wow.”

The Washington Times has reached out to Gannett, which owns USA Today, but in a statement to Fox News, the company blamed an “oversight” for the unacknowledged revisions without addressing the newspaper’s decision to allow the redo.

“We regret the oversight in updating the Stacey Abrams column,” said Gannett. “As soon as we recognized there was no editor’s note, we added it to the page to reflect her changes. We have reviewed our procedures to ensure this does not occur again.”

In both versions, Ms. Abrams expresses support for the idea of boycotts while urging companies to “stay and fight” instead of leaving, but she leaves the door open for a boycott in the first article.

“I have no doubt that voters of color, particularly Black voters, are willing to endure the hardships of boycotts,” Ms. Abrams says in the op-ed.

Originally, that sentence was followed by, “But I don’t think that’s necessary — yet,” a line that has since been deleted entirely.

In its place is the following sentence: “But such monetary loss is unlikely to affect the stubborn, frightened Republicans who see voter suppression as their only way to win. Money isn’t quite as seductive as political power to these putative leaders.”

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