The Wall Street Journal editorial shame

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When does an editor’s note look like a comb-over? When he tries to hide what the editor would rather not admit.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed declaring “fanciful” and “unlikely” the story of a 10-year-old rape victim who had to travel from Ohio to Indiana to have an abortion. Still, the Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday that a man has been charged with rape, adding further weight to a story that first surfaced in the Indianapolis Star on July 1.

Suddenly, “whimsical” became “confirmed”.

The headline for Tuesday’s editorial – “An abortion story too good to be confirmed” – was now extinct. Many lines of the editorial were now evidence of the Journal’s overly quick tendency to dismiss a story cited by President Biden on July 8. don’t name a 10-year-old rape victim! “He said a 10-year-old girl whom he did not identify by name was forced to travel from Ohio to Indiana to have an abortion because Ohio now bans abortion after the discovery of a fetal heartbeat,” the editorial read.

The solution? The Journal superimposed an editor’s note over the erroneous text:

This laughable half-measure drew its fair share of criticism on social media. The editorial said one thing; the editor’s note said something quite different. They fought hand to hand.

The Journal has apparently decided that it might be appropriate to address the snafu with a form of the verb “correct” and published a new editorial on Wednesday evening with the title “Correct the file on a rape case”. Here is the opening paragraph:

It seems President Biden was right when he told the story of a 10-year-old girl from Ohio who was raped and traveled to Indiana for an abortion. We demand Tuesday about the case, after no one confirmed its accuracy or any public report of the crime, despite the story making the rounds in the media for nearly two weeks.

Bold added to highlight the Journal misrepresenting its own work. The first two sentences of the original editorial, after all, read: “All sorts of whimsical tales travel far and wide on social media these days, but you don’t expect them to be heard at Home. White. Yet that is what appears to have happened on Friday as President Biden signed an executive order on abortion.

You call that “wondering”?

It’s easy, of course, to scoff at how news outlets miscorrect and incompletely correct their mistakes — and it’s especially easy in this case, where the Journal’s editorial board has decided to suspend its own credibility from the rockiest cliff in American political discourse.

But why did he do it? What made him take such a stupid risk?

The answer lies in its editorial archives.

As the Journal itself clarified in its corrective editorial, its board of directors supported abortion rights “before sustainability,” although it argued for the reversal of Roe vs. Wade — which she described as a precedent as flawed as Plessy v. Ferguson, of “separate but equal” infamy. “Abortion is mentioned nowhere in the Constitution, and its regulation is a classic example of police powers reserved to the states,” the Journal’s editorial board wrote in November 2021.

In April 2022, the editorial board wrote an article speculating that the coalition to defeat Roe vs. Wade may well be fragile, and that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. may seek to form a coalition to preserve precedent as the court deliberates on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “He may be trying to turn another judge now,” the editorial notes.

As for knowing what a post-deer the future holds, the Journal went with this explanation, which deserves to be quoted in full:

Much better for the Court to leave the thicket of abortion regulation and send the matter back to the states. A political uproar would ensue, but voters would then decide abortion policy through elections, starting in November.

The possibility of obtaining an abortion would not disappear in the United States. It could happen in some states, but in some of those states there are already relatively few clinics that perform abortions. The most likely outcome is a multiplicity of laws depending on how the debate and elections unfold. California could allow abortion up to the moment of birth. Mississippi could ban it except in cases of rape or incest.

The Guttmacher Institute, which promotes abortion rights, estimates that 26 states “are certain or likely to ban abortion without Roe.” But that means 24 states would allow it, including some of the most populous. Based on a 2017 Guttmacher analysis of abortions performed in various states, the majority of these abortions would remain legal.

Meanwhile, a movement is already underway to pay women in restrictive states to travel and have abortions elsewhere. Planned Parenthood would have the greatest fundraising years in its history. Opponents of abortion may even be disappointed by the outcome of the political debate. They should plead, and win, the moral cause against abortion among their fellow citizens.

In other words, this expression of sunny federalism and spirited activism served as the Journal’s official vision for the days following June 24, when the Court, in its Dobbs decision, did exactly what the newspaper advised him to do. “The majority of the Court in Dobbs reinvigorated democracy and federalism,” the editorial board wrote in a July 1 article breaking down the High Court’s mandate.

‘Democracy and federalism’, for the family of the 10-year-old rape victim, meant a trip from Ohio – which enacted a six-week abortion ban – to Indiana so she could get a medical abortion. Ohio law does not include exceptions for rape or incest. The Journal did not respond to questions about the process.

The contrast between the Journal’s point of view on a post-deer world and afterdeer world as chronicled by a pair of Midwestern newspapers helps explain why the Journal went too far in sniping the story and why it stumbled through an embarrassing two-step process to correct the story.

“Fancy” stories, after all, are hard things to let go of.

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