The USA TODAY Life Twitter account posted a controversial thread on Twitter where it made apology and attempted to normalize pedophilia generating strong reactions against the medium.
The thread started with the phrase: “We think we know what a pedophile is. There’s a lot we’re misunderstanding.” Then, the media tried to explain that several specialists who study “the disorder” say that there is “an overlap between pedophiles and child molesters, but they aren’t the same.”
According to USA TODAY, “most of the public thinks of pedophilia, they assume it’s synonymous with child sexual abuse. A pedophile is an adult who is sexually attracted to children, but not all pedophiles abuse kids, and some people who sexually abuse kids are not pedophiles.”
According to the thread, Dr. James Cantor explained “pedophiles need better access to therapy, which can be difficult since those afflicted may be ashamed to seek help or worried about being reported to the authorities if they do.”
The thread highlighted that, “in recent recent decades, the science on pedophilia has improved. One of the most significant findings is that pedophilia is likely determined in the womb, though environmental factors may influence whether someone acts on an urge to abuse.”
The comments, responses and criticisms against USA TODAY were swift. Thousands of users, including conservative figures on Twitter, posted harsh questionings against the media outlet.
Auron MacIntyre, journalist and youtuber, tweeted, “USA Today has deleted its entire pedophile apologia thread but don’t let them memory hole this.”
Eliza Bleu, a survivor and advocate for victims of human trafficking, criticized the USA TODAY article on Twitter, recalling that January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Bleu spoke with Timcast’s Cassandra Fairbanks and said that, while she was looking for news articles about Human Trafficking Awareness Day to post on her social media, she saw “USA Today tweet about pedophila with attached article.”
“My heart is broken for survivors of child sex abuse and trauma, instead of the corporate press using today to stand in solidarity with survivors and offer resources, USA Today chose to tweet an article today posted yesterday seemingly trying to normalize pedophila,” Bleu said.
Andy Ngô, Editor-at-Large at The Post Millenial, commented that the issue touched on by USA TODAY “has been discussed more in the mainstream recently due to the work of #Antifa supporter @nberlat, @ProstasiaInc & queer activist academics.”
The article linked in the original thread, USA TODAY mentions Allyn Walker, an academic and former sociology professor at Norfolk’s Old Dominion University who was roundly challenged on social media after the viralization of a video where he calls for calling pedophiles “minor-attracted person” so as “not to stigmatize them.”
Although Walker is a shunned figure on social networks and criticism against him led him to resign last November, the USA TODAY article reads that “there is growing support in the field for Walker’s point of view.”
The controversial USA TODAY thread even reached the eyes of former President Donald Trump’s son, Trump JR., who said on Twitter that “To me (and probably anyone who has been watching) this is nothing more than the first step of trying to normalize this kind of behavior.”
USA TODAY explains why it deleted its thread
After the wave of criticism, USA TODAY explained that the “previous thread did not include all information and the story it was written about is behind a paywall. We made the decision to delete the thread.” However, the content of the deleted post is closely aligned with the content of the article written by journalist Alia E. Dastagir.
“The initial thread lacked the context that was within the story and we made the decision the pull down the entire thread,” read another USA TODAY tweet, which was, again, criticized after the clarification.
What USA TODAY did not explain is why it changed the headline of its article. Initially, the title was “What the public keeps getting wrong about pedophilia”, which was later replaced by a more general title: “The complicated research behind pedophilia.”