The Daily Beast falsely reported that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker wanted to minimize how many sexual assault cases U.S. colleges report.
Instead of correcting a redundancy in the budget, the news story wrongly said that Walker’s new budget made it so “universities would no longer have to report the number of sexual assaults that take place on a campus to the Department of Justice,” Jezebel reported.
But, Walker made that budget change at the request of the University of Wisconsin because it was “redundant,” the Associated Press reported., That is, the state government already had to submit the information under the Clery Act. The Clery Act “requires colleges and universities, both public and private, participating in federal student aid programs to disclose campus safety information, and imposes certain basic requirements for handling incidents of sexual violence and emergency situations.”
Alexander Hummel, Associate Vice President for Communications, UW System Administration, confirmed with iMediaEthics the university asked for the “proposoed statutory changes” but that it wouldn’t affect the university’s reporting of sexual assaults.
“The proposed state statutory changes regarding the reporting of sexual assault, which we did request given the budget’s proposal to create an autonomous UW System Authority, in no way lessen UW System’s and institutions’ commitment to student safety and support,” he wrote. “They allow us to focus on one quality, effective and accountable report which we currently provide to the federal government and share with students, families, legislators and others”
He added that the university abides by the Clery Act and has a System Task Force on Sexual Violence and Harassment.
The Daily Beast retracted its story and admitted that “Scott Walker’s budget proposal to delete the requirement that universities report sexual assault cases has been incorrectly reported by the Beast and others.”
In a lengthy correction and retraction the Daily Beast said its report was based on the blog Jezebel’s report and that the Daily Beast failed to “thoroughly” verify the story.
The Daily Beast retraction, posted atop the Feb. 27 story, states:
“CORRECTION AND RETRACTION: A Daily Beast college columnist at the University of Wisconsin based this article off a Jezebel posting which was incorrectly reported. Jezebel updated their post on Saturday with the following after USA Today published a story debunking Jezebel’s account and clarifying Gov. Scott Walker’s position. ‘UPDATE: After Jezebel ran this item yesterday, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin came forward—over two weeks after the budget was released—to clarify: the University requested that Gov. Walker delete the requirements because efforts were redundant with their compliance of the Cleary Act. Scott Walker’s camp assures that he’s committed to protecting victims.’
“When The Daily Beast contacted Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel for comment on Friday, his office expressed reservations about Walker’s proposal. His office told The Daily Beast in a statement that the Attorney General “is concerned about some of the provisions in the budget that may reduce information provided to college students and take away reporting requirements. He will work with representatives from UW and the Governor’s office to determine what prompted these changes and to ensure that we provide all of the protection we reasonably can for our college students,” but it is unclear if Schimel’s office was aware of the stated purpose of the provision in question. The Daily Beast is committed to covering the news fairly and accurately, and we should have checked this story more thoroughly. We deeply regret the error and apologize to Gov. Walker and our readers. Our original story should be considered retracted.”
Jezebel posted an editor’s note atop its story to add the “full context” of Walker’s deletions. The Jezebel editor’s note reads :
“[Editor’s Note: After Jezebel ran this item yesterday, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin came forward—over two weeks after the budget was released—to clarify: the University requested that Gov. Walker delete the requirements because efforts were redundant with their compliance of the Clery Act. Scott Walker’s camp assures that he’s committed to protecting victims. We reported this piece without full context, and while this piece conveys factual information, omission of that context for that information presents an unfair and misleading picture. We regret the error and apologize.]”
The Huffington Post published an “update” on its story reading:
“UPDATE: Feb. 28 — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker deleted campus rape reporting requirements from his new two-year budget this month at the request of University of Wisconsin Systems. The network of campuses said the federal government already required them to report rape statistics, and the Wisconsin state requirement forced them to duplicate those efforts.
“A report by Jezebel on Friday suggested that Walker deleted the rape requirements as a policy move. Walkers office and UWSystems have since confirmed that was not the case.”
Jezebel declined to comment further to iMediaEthics.
Last month, the New York Times wrongly accused Walker of making spending cuts that led to teachers being laid off. But the layoffs occurred before Walker was in office, as iMediaEthics reported, and the Times posted a correction.
IMediaEthics has written to the Daily Beast and Walker’s office for comment.
Hat Tip: Examiner.com