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Unprecedented? The News Media Put Words in Someone’s Mouth!

Jonathan Wells
Photo credit: Jizhidexiaohailang via Unsplash.

On May 22, 2021, USA Today published an op-ed by female track star Chelsea Mitchell. As a high school girl, she won the 2020 55-meter dash in the Connecticut state championship. But Connecticut decided that transgender girls (people born biologically male who decide to transition to female) could compete in girls’ sports. Chelsea and other female track stars soon lost race after race to their biologically male competitors. Not surprisingly, Chelsea’s USA Today op-ed was critical of the practice.  

A few days later, without notice to Chelsea, the editors of USA Today changed every occurrence of “male” in her op-ed to “transgender,” because they considered the former to be “hurtful language.” Chelsea’s legal representatives, Alliance Defending Freedom, called the change “unprecedented.” Of course, this action neutralized the whole point of Chelsea’s op-ed.

Unethical, Certainly; but Unprecedented?

The action was certainly unethical. Given the stakes in the controversy over allowing biological males to take over women’s sports, it was also immoral. But was it unprecedented?

Around the year 2000, as I was becoming known for my writings critical of Darwinism, I was invited to write an op-ed for the Toronto Globe and Mail. After I submitted it, and without consulting me, the editor(s) changed a word or two. (I don’t remember the details.) The final version sounded like an endorsement of conservative Christian (and creationist) Stockwell Day. At the time, Day was campaigning to win a seat in the Canadian Parliament, and he was ferociously opposed by members of the Liberal Party. So the editor(s) dragged me into a political battle in which I was not involved.

“Scientist” vs. “Creationist”

Around the same time, Discovery Institute arranged for me to appear on U.S. National Public Radio (NPR). NPR agreed that the program would be a discussion about the biological evidence for Darwinism and not be framed as a debate between science and creationism. At the appropriate time I telephoned from Seattle to the NPR affiliate in the San Francisco Bay area to join the program.

The hostess began by announcing that the program would be a debate between “scientist” Eugenie Scott (director of the militantly pro-Darwin National Center for Science Education) and “creationist” Jonathan Wells. Scott just happened to be sitting in the NPR studio at the time. Needless to say, I spent the entire hour trying to correct NPR’s gross misrepresentation. As I recall, we never talked much about the evidence.

So USA Today’s unethical and immoral editing of Chelsea Mitchell’s op-ed was not unprecendented. For many years, critics of Darwinism have been subjected to similarly malicious word games. I would call them the canary in the coal mine, except that the canary often died. Critics of Darwinism are very much alive and well.