In a matter of hours, CNN published and removed a story about how hormones influence women voters, one that made claims about how women tend to lean liberal when ovulating because they “feel sexier.” The story was based on an unpublished scientific study — insert scare quotes as needed — from researchers at the University of Texas, San Antonio that looked at the political tendencies of 275 women at various stages of their menstrual cycle. Broadly speaking, the study concluded that, yes, women’s voting patterns do vary based on their hormones, and CNN galvanised the idea with a blog post flanked by pictures of Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Or, in the words of Jezebel, “CNN Thinks Crazy Ladies Can’t Help Voting With Their Vaginas Instead of Their Brains.”Jezebel was not alone in criticising CNN’s coverage of the study. The Washington Post‘s Alexandra Petri sounded a little more than sarcastic when she wrote, “What if there’s an accident at the hormone factory and we wind up electing Michael Fassbender and doing unspeakable things to Medicaid?” New York Magazine’s Kat Stoeffel quipped, “Female voters! Kindly tell Nate Silver the date of your last period and your relationship status so he can figure out once and for all who’s gonna win this thing November 6.” MSNBC’s Jamil Smith tweeted, “CNN should be embarrassed for even asking whether hormones drive women’s votes, much less publishing a post about it.” There’s plenty more where that came from.
Well, the obvious solution to publishing something unpopular is to unpublish it, right? That’s what CNN did on Wednesday evening. “After further review it was determined that some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN,” the network said. The story’s author, Elizabeth Landau rose to her own defence in the meantime, explaining on Twitter that she “was reporting on a study to be published in a peer-reviewed journal & included scepticism” in her coverage. “I did not conduct the study,” she said. That’s sort of like publishing a story about the other people justifying white supremacists and then explaining, “I didn’t say those racist things.”
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