Thursday, April 29, 2021 : By Nathan Skates
In a stunning episode of media assistance to Democrats, USA Today allowed Stacey Abrams to edit her already published op-ed to make it appear as if she always staunchly opposed the Georgia boycotts, not even including an editor’s note explaining her changes for two weeks.
Abrams drew criticism for her claims in the first USA Today op-ed that the Georgia election law was racist, leading to corporate boycotts of the state, including the decision by Major League Baseball (MLB) to move its upcoming All-Star Game out of Atlanta. So USA Today allowed Abrams to change her op-ed.
The alterations are not subtle, yet USA Today failed to even include an editor’s note regarding the changes until April 22.
Abrams and fact checkers have since claimed that she had never supported boycotts, with PolitiFact even pointing to her op-ed as proof. The problem was that Politifact cited her edited version, which wasn’t released until after MLB’s decision to move its big midsummer game to predominantly white Denver.
A spokesperson for USA Today’s parent company Gannett said, “We regret the oversight in updating the Stacey Abrams column. 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.”
Notice the company does not regret allowing Abrams to deceptively edit her op-ed, only that they failed to include a note.
One section in particular has drawn the most scrutiny. The original read as follows:
“The impassioned response to the racist, classist bill that is now the law of Georgia is to boycott in order to achieve change. Events hosted by major league baseball, world class soccer, college sports and dozens of Hollywood films hang in the balance. At the same time, activists urge Georgians to swear off of hometown products to express our outrage. 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.
However, one lesson of boycotts is that the pain of deprivation must be shared to be sustainable. Otherwise, those least resilient bear the brunt of these actions; and in the aftermath, they struggle to access the victory. And boycotts are complicated affairs that require a long-term commitment to action. I have no doubt that voters of color, particularly Black voters, are willing to endure the hardships of boycotts. But I don’t think that’s necessary — yet.”
The edited version reads,
“The impassioned (and understandable) response to the racist, classist bill that is now the law of Georgia is to boycott in order to achieve change. Events that can bring millions of dollars to struggling families hang in the balance. 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.
Rather than accept responsibility for their craven actions, Republican leaders blame me and others who have championed voting rights (and actually read the bill). Their faux outrage is designed to hide the fact that they prioritized making it harder for people of color to vote over the economic well-being of all Georgians. To add to the injury, the failed former president is now calling for cancellation of baseball as the national pastime.
Boycotts invariably also cost jobs. To be sustainable, the pain of deprivation must be shared rather than borne by those who are least resilient. They also require a long-term commitment to action. The North Carolina boycott of 2016 didn’t stop with the election of Democrat Roy Cooper, and the venerable Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 381 days, ending only with a Supreme Court decision.
I have no doubt that voters of color, particularly Black voters, are willing to endure the hardships of boycotts. 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.”
Any reader can easily recognize that this is no longer the same op-ed.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp responded to the edits by saying, “Can’t say I’m surprised. The left spends weeks spreading lies and promoting boycotts, and their pals in the national media cover their tracks. Stacey Abrams can’t have it both ways. Hardworking Georgians deserve the truth.”
Sen. Kelly Loeffler tweeted, “Stacey Abrams called for boycotts of Georgia—then when the MLB fell for her lies, she tried to rewrite her own words and cover it up with help from @USATODAY. Now, hardworking Georgians are set to lose $100 million—and they know exactly who’s to blame.”
It is baffling that a major news outlet would allow such blatant partisanship. By permitting Abrams to publish a dramatically altered article, she has been able to rewrite history. It is true that Abrams came to the conclusion in both that boycotts were not currently necessary, but one could be excused for thinking the opposite considering the majority of the article is spent lauding boycotts and disparaging the law’s contents and lawmakers’ intentions as racist and classist.
Abrams began taking heat after her false accusations led to corporations costing Georgians money, so she tried to cover her tracks and USA Today complied. It is hard to fathom a mainstream news outlet allowing a Republican to do the same. The citizens of Georgia stand to lose substantial revenue and suffer further harm because of the lies told by Abrams and President Joe Biden.
As USA Today’s deputy editorial page editor David Mastio noted in his own personal opinion piece, not only are Biden’s claims that the law is “Jim Crow on steroids” preposterous, but Georgia’s law is more liberal than voting requirements in many Democratic states.
The media should hold politicians accountable, and allowing Abrams to deceptively edit the op-ed after her words had consequence is not only failing to hold her accountable, but acting as an arm of her campaign.