USA Today reportedly edited Stacey Abrams op-ed to downplay call for boycotts ahead of MLB decision

USA Today may have permitted post-publication editing of an opinion piece written by former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in an effort to soften her prior backing for boycotts in the state after Major League Baseball officials pulled the All-Star Game from the Atlanta Braves.

The op-ed, which was published March 31, a few days before MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced he was moving the game to Denver in protest of a new voter integrity law, initially appeared to praise the response to what she described as “racist, classist” legislation.

“The impassioned response to the racist, classist bill that is now the law of Georgia is to boycott in order to achieve change,” Abrams noted originally. “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,” she added.

She went on to write: “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… I ask you to bring your business to Georgia and, if you’re already here, stay and fight. Stay and vote.”

USA Today ‘updated’ the op-ed on April 6 in which there were some distinct differences.

“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,” the revision noted.

“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,” it continued.

“Boycotts invariably also cost jobs. To be sustainable, the pain of deprivation must be shared rather than borne by those who are least resilient… 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,” the revision states.

It then contains this line: “Instead of a boycott, I strongly urge other events and productions to do business in Georgia and speak out against our law and similar proposals in other states.”

Fox News reported that Republican strategist Matt Whitlock was the first to discover the stealthy edits after various media outlets attempted to “fact-check” members of the GOP who accused Abrams of initially supporting Georgia boycotts.

“In a March 31 op-ed in USA Today, Abrams wrote that the advancement of civil rights relied on economic boycotts, but cautioned that there is a downside: ‘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,'” Politifact falsely said Abrams wrote in the original piece.

Whitlock explained on Twitter, “Not over the fact that Stacey Abrams published an op-Ed about the Georgia law saying ‘boycotts work,’ and she wouldn’t blame anyone for boycotting.. Then AFTER the MLB move, STEALTH EDITED the op-Ed with stronger language opposing boycotts, and media have used it to defend her.”

Classic @PolitiFact,” he continued. “In arguing on behalf of Stacey Abrams against @BrianKempGA — that she had always argued against boycotts — they cite lines from her op-Ed about boycotts costing jobs. But those lines were added AFTER the MLB move.”

Whitlock also criticized Twitter for ‘trending’ Abrams’ edited op-ed version.

“Twitter gave it an entire trending blurb, CITING the op-Ed she had edited after the MLB move to cement the narrative that the MLB move wasn’t her fault. That’s some Orwellian stuff,” he wrote Saturday.

After reports of the suspicious edits spread, Fox media reporter Joseph A. Wulfsohn later reported that USA Today regretted its ‘oversight in updating’ Abram’s column and lack of editor’s note.

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Jon Dougherty

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