USA Today Removes GOP Senator's Op-Ed on Trans Athletes

 May 24, 2024

Controversy surrounds the removal of a GOP senator's editorial from USA Today.

Several newspapers within the Gannett-owned USA Today network removed an op-ed by Senator John Kennedy criticizing transgender athletes in women's sports due to inflammatory content, Fox News reported.

The deletion was carried out silently, sparking debates over media bias and editorial consistency. Sentinel John Kennedy's contentious op-ed, which appeared on May 11 in Louisiana-based papers, argued against the inclusion of transgender athletes in women's sports, citing biologically induced competitive imbalances. By May 14, Gannett had scrubbed the piece from its websites, asserting that it failed to align with their editorial standards, particularly offending with its "loaded language."

The lack of initial communication with Kennedy about the removal has raised eyebrows. Senator Kennedy's staff only realized the piece was missing when they encountered broken links online, prompting them to contact Gannett days later. Gannett's VP of Standards and Ethics, Michael McCarter, explained that they offered Kennedy an opportunity to amend and resubmit the op-ed, minus the inflammatory parts.

Gannett's Approach to Ethical Standards Draws Criticism

The decision to allow major editorial revisions poses questions about Gannett's consistency in upholding its ethical guidelines across different situations. In a past incident involving Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, Gannett permitted post-publication edits to an op-ed she wrote in March 2021, handling the updates discreetly until drawing public notice.

The Senator commented fiercely on the removal, casting Gannett as an overreaching moral arbiter and censoring viewpoints they dislike. "They think they are the speech police. Drunk on certainty and virtue, they think they are our moral teacher... Most people don't support allowing biological men to participate in women's sports because they think that will bastardize sports, skew the results, and hurt women."

Misty Castile, the Executive Editor of the Shreveport Times, mentioned that specific citations and analogies like those on sports celebrity Zion Williamson did not resonate with their editorial values, especially against mocking identity. This editorial judgment further fueled the controversy, intertwining issues of respect with free speech.

Comparison to Past Controversies Reveals Potential Bias

Comparisons with the Stacey Abrams incident uncovered potential precedents of bias, amplifying critiques of Gannett's editorial practices. A Gannett spokesperson expressed regret for how Abrams' edits were handled, acknowledging that they should have been more transparent by adding an editor's note immediately.

These two cases underline the delicate balance media companies must maintain between editorial integrity and encouraging diverse viewpoints. It reveals the complexities of deciding whose voice gets amplified or muted in the public sphere.

Senator Kennedy's accusation of censorship highlights a growing mistrust between public figures and media outlets, emphasizing the critical role of media ethics in maintaining public trust.

Public Trust In Media Continues To Decline

While Gannett stresses its commitment to respect and diversity in opinion pieces, removing Kennedy's op-ed exemplifies the tension between free expression and responsible journalism. Michael McCarter clarifies the network's intent, "The opinion teams across the USA TODAY Network are focused on delivering local, timely, relevant, and diverse opinion pieces... Sen. Kennedy's submitted opinion column did not meet our ethical guidelines, stating we will treat people respectfully."

This incident exemplifies the ongoing debate over the role of media in moderating content while fostering a marketplace of diverse ideas. Reflecting broader societal disagreements about the treatment and sports rights of transgender individuals, this debate extends beyond this instance, touching cores of civil discourse and media responsibilities.

In conclusion, removing Senator Kennedy's op-ed from the USA Today network opens a multifaceted discussion on editorial decisions, perceived biases, and the media's role in shaping public opinion. Considering the inconsistent application of editorial policies and past precedents, the scenario continues to generate debate and scrutiny of the ethical standards of major news publishers.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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