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Why did USA Today claim pedophilia is misunderstood? Bizarre tweets slammed online

Publication forced to delete series of tweets promoting the article and acknowledges the thread 'lacked the context' of the story as backlash mounts
UPDATED JAN 13, 2022
Copies of USA Today are displayed on a rack on September 30, 2009, in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Copies of USA Today are displayed on a rack on September 30, 2009, in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

On January 11, 2022, USA Today ignited a massive firestorm after a series of now-deleted tweets about pedophilia. Calling the act "misunderstood", the publication cited research and claimed it is "determined in the womb", based on an article that is still up on its website. However, the tweet thread promoting the article has now been taken down, with the Twitter account issuing an apology. However, it came too late as social media users slammed the publication for its story.

Many online claimed the tweets were normalizing pedophilia, with the article going even further to fuel those claims. A similar controversy erupted on January 6, after Pabst Blue Ribbon tweeted "eat ass", which the company walked back. In February 2021, Oreo also sparked controversy after responding to Marjorie Taylor Greene's anti-LGBTQ sign with a tweet "trans people exist". 


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But few of those controversies have left people as furious as USA Today's tweet thread. So what exactly happened? Here's the truth.

Bizarre reason behind USA Today's claim

On January 10, the publication released an article titled 'The complicated research behind pedophilia' under its Health & Wellness section. Staff writer Alia E. Dastagir explored what exactly made people resort to pedophilia, by interviewing several experts. Dastagir makes several controversial points in the story, claiming it is "misunderstood" and that "pedophilia is determined in the womb." She also says "Not all people who sexually abuse children are pedophiles," and "some people who sexually abuse children do not sexually prefer them."

Those claims aren't made randomly but backed with extensive proof and research. Dastagir has backlinked several research papers that argue her points, such as one 2002 research that studied the link between pedophiles and childhood accidents. Dastagir also interviews several experts in the field, such as James Cantor, a clinical psychologist and internationally recognized expert Anna Salter.

When you read the whole story, it makes sense what Dastagir is trying to say, and it went relatively unnoticed the day it was published. However, it quickly gained notoriety on January 11, after USA Today promoted the article with a series of tweets. The thread used excerpts from the story, saying things like, "In recent decades, the science on pedophilia has improved" and "pedophiles need better access to therapy." Naturally, the thread caught the attention of the net, with many claiming the publication was "defending" and "normalizing" pedophilia.

In response, USA Today took down the thread before later issuing a clarification. "A 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," they tweeted, adding "The initial thread lacked the context that was within the story and we made the decision the pull down the entire thread."


As the clarification says, when taken out of context, it certainly appears as if the tweets promote pedophilia. More importantly, a lot of the tweets are words taken from quotes of people Dastagir interviewed, not claims she made. But with Twitter's character limit, it appears the account couldn't properly attribute those quotes. The entire article has now been removed from the paywall and is accessible to anyone who wants to read it. 

'Did the FBI start asking questions?'

Despite the retraction, the backlash against USA Today continued well into January 12 and 13. "There is nothing you can do at this point but be perfectly quiet for a very long time," one user responded to their clarification. Another replied, "Not sure what kind of additional information would have made this more palatable, but ok." Another asked, "Did the @FBI
start asking questions and pursuing search warrants for browser histories of USA Today employees?" One person joked, "Damn, you got some CNN staffers over there?"





Disclaimer: This article contains remarks made on the Internet by individual people and organizations. MEAWW cannot confirm them independently and does not support claims or opinions being made online.