Few things are as exasperating as having to correct the same bogus news cycle twice. Yet, here we are.
The Huffington Post has a large glob of egg on its face Friday after it issued a major correction to an article about the official White House webpage.
The online news site reported originally that the Trump administration had "quietly" removed a 2014 sexual assault report from the White House website. The story leaned heavily on input from civil rights attorney and anti-Trump activist Alexandra Brodsky, who was among the first to notice that the sexual assault report, titled "Rape And Sexual Assault: Renewed Call To Action," was missing from its normal spot.
Removing the report "is really a discouragement from action," Brodsky told the Huffington Post. "That's particularly troublesome when we know that the administration is actively considering undermining important policies for survivors like those reaffirmed by the Obama administration regarding Title IX."
"What does it mean that the Trump administration doesn't want the public to have that information?" she asked.
This would be an interesting question were it not for the fact that this story is about nothing more exciting than Trump White House officials adhering to policies established during the Clinton and Bush eras.
The White House website is normally wiped clean with each new administration. The older pages are archived elsewhere. In fact, the Obama-era issues pages, including the sexual assault report, are still available at the archived version of the Obama White House website. This is how it was done during the transition periods between presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and between Bush and Barack Obama.
But facts are hard, and the Huffington Post and a few other newsrooms covered the missing 2014 report this week as if some shadowy conspiracy were at play.
"The White House Quietly Deleted a Sexual Assault Prevention Report," read a Teen Vogue report, adding that, "It seems as though every week there's another instance of the Trump administration trying to quietly undo an Obama-era rule or policy."
The Root said elsewhere in a headline of its own, "#StayWoke: White House Removes Sexual Assault Prevention Report From Its Website."
"Sexual assault report quietly vanishes from White House website," read a headline featured on the New York Times' Women in the World page.
If this all sounds familiar – reporters freaking out over missing White House webpages and the subsequent, non-scandalous explanation – it is because we've been through this before.
Recall that there was a medium-sized media meltdown on Jan. 20 after journalists discovered that the LGBT and climate change issues pages had disappeared from the White House website. The Washington Examiner, BuzzFeed and others explained at the time that this was not unusual, nor was it cause for scandal.
What's amazing is that the Huffington Post and others even mentioned the climate change and LGBT pages incident in their initial write-ups this week of the archived 2014 sexual assault report. They apparently didn't learn anything from the January episode, because we're living through this issue all over again.
The Huffington Post amended its sexual assault article Friday after someone in its newsroom apparently discovered (or re-discovered) long-standing White House policy.
The headline now reads, "Sexual Assault Report Drops From White House Site, Remains On Obama Archive (UPDATE)." The story also includes a correction that reads, "This article 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."
In short, it's now a story about standard White House operating procedure. Gone are the suggestions that the current administration had "quietly" tried to undo an Obama-era policy. It's just a process story now. Whoopie.
The newsrooms that followed the Huffington Post's lead, including Teen Vogue and the Root, have yet to update their articles to reflect that nothing unusual occurred with the archiving of the 2014 sexual assault report.
This embarrassment was 100 percent avoidable. The facts are readily available, and they're not hard to find. The Huffington Post's mistake, aside from relying solely on input from an activist, was that it wanted to believe. The story was too good to check.
This wouldn't be so infuriating were it not for the fact that this same exact issue was addressed and corrected in January when certain newsrooms leveled the same exact false charges.
How many times are we going to have to do this?
(h/t Ashe Schow)