HHS official blasts USAT reporter over abstinence piece

On Tuesday, USA Today published a story by Sharon Jayson that revealed that the US Department of Health and Human Services is now telling...

On Tuesday, USA Today published a story by Sharon Jayson that revealed that the US Department of Health and Human Services is now telling states that they can get grant money for abstinence-promotion programs targeting single people up to the age of 29. The story brought widespread ridicule on HHS -- why, critics asked, would the government dedicate millions of dollars to promoting abstinence among people who are grown adults?

Now, HHS is lashing out at Jayson. Wade Horn, assistant secretary of children and families for HHS (who was quoted in Jayson's article) told PRWeek that "It's very interesting how one very bad, incompetent reporter for the USA Today managed to get a front page story, and getting the story wrong has generated so many press calls."

Specifically, Horn objected to the fact that the USAT piece characterized the age guidelines as a "revision" to grant guidelines; Instead, Horn says, the guidelines where the same all along, and HHS was simply clarifying them for the benefit of states who would be applying for the grant money. He also noted that the department released the age information in August, and it has not generated any controversy until now.

Steve Anderson, director of communications for USA Today, said in response that "we stand by the story completely," and that the paper has not received any objections from anyone, including Horn himself.

"Sharon Jayson is a very accomplished and well respected reporter who has 30 years of experience on television, radio, and print," he added. The sniping, including insinuations by Horn that the story was politically motivated, do not really address the fundamental question that caused such an uproar in the first place: Should the US government be encouraging abstinence among citizens as old as 29? Fifty million dollars in grants are up for grabs, so it's a credible question. As a perfectly objective journalist, I have no opinion on the issue -- but I do know that calling reporters on your beat "incompetent" is a questionable way of engendering goodwill with the press.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in