Last week an array of liberal-leaning media outlets reported that the Trump administration had axed an Obama-era report on campus sexual-assault. "The White House Deleted a Sexual Assault Report From Its Website," read the headline at Jezebel. "The White House has removed an important report on sexual violence from its website," said TechCrunch. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) even put out a statement condemning the move, which was portrayed as a covert action driven by Donald Trump's disdain for sexual-assault survivors.
The report, "Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action," was "a summary of really important and, in some cases, government-funded work that was done to understand the causes and effects of sexual and gender violence," Alexandra Brodsky, co-founder of the advocacy group KnowYourIX, told The Huffington Post, in a piece shared more than 100,000 times. "What does it mean that the Trump administration doesn't want the public to have that information?" she asked. ("No one knows for sure, but we can certainly speculate," added HuffPost Women Editor Alanna Vagianos, perfectly summing up the editorial ethos of #Resistance "reporters.")
The DNC declared that "removing this report is the latest example of the Trump administration's efforts to systematically undermine critical policies that protect survivors and combat sexual violence."
Like other too-perfect anti-Trump narratives, this one falls apart under scrutiny. It turns out the paper—part of Joe Biden's work with the White House Council on Women and Girls—was slated for removal from the White House website before Donald Trump even took office, as part of the government's normal archiving process between presidential administrations.
The report can still be found on the archival Obama White House website.
"At the conclusion of a Presidential Administration, web content from that Administration is archived by [the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA] and typically made available on an archived website," the Trump White House said in a statement. "The policy, process, and extent of archiving of Obama Administration content was determined by the Obama Administration, in consultation with NARA and other stakeholders."
In other words, the report's removal was totally standard operating procedure, approved by federal bureaucrats before Trump was in power.
Vagianos still tries to assign some blame to Trump, noting that we don't know "exactly when the report was taken down" and it could have been "taken down during the administration turnover on Inauguration Day…or in the months since then." But even if it was removed from the White House website after Trump's inauguration, this is hardly Trump's fault, as his website people would have simply been following the digital archiving plan laid out by Obama's team.
At least HuffPost has offered a correction, stating at the bottom of Vagianos' article that it "previously suggested that the removal of the report from the White House site was in some way unusual. As the White House notes, such removals are not uncommon in the routine transition between administrations." Most of the pieces summarizing HuffPost's inaccurate story have yet to be corrected.
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