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The Washington Times Changes 'Democrats Sputter Lies Like They Have Tourette's Syndrome' Headline

On Wednesday, The Washington Times changed the headline of an article published on Sept. 13 after the writer, Cheryl Chumley, the publication’s online opinion editor, was criticized for making light of Tourette syndrome. Chumley’s original headline read, “Democrats sputter lies like they have Tourette’s syndrome.” It has since been changed to “Democrats are afflicted by uncontrollable urge to sputter lies.”

Tourette syndrome is a neurological condition characterized by repetitive and involuntary movements and vocalizations like speech or making other noises like throat clearing or grunting, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Though Chumley said repeatedly she would not change the headline, it was ultimately changed, though it is unclear who made the changes.

Responding to the backlash, Chumley posted on Facebook:

But the people who are waging a war on a piece I wrote about lying democrats really ought to get their facts straight … and stop trying to pretend I said something I didn’t, or wrote something I didn’t, or made mockery of something I didn’t.

Maybe then it’ll become evident why I’m not changing the headline. Oh yeah — once again: Not apologizing. Not changing headline. Not going to quit my job or go live in a hole, or any of the other recommendations from the so-called Offended People.

Seriously, I don't mind people disagreeing with my points of view, or expressing offense at pieces I write. Happens all…

Posted by Cheryl Chumley on Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Before the headline change, people with Tourette’s and their families told Chumley how offensive the headline was on social media. Some called the headline “dangerous” and said people with Tourette’s do not have self-control issues.

Zack Whittaker, security editor at TechCrunch who lives with Tourette’s and shared his thoughts about the article on social media, told The Mighty a lot of people think Tourette’s is a “funny condition,” when in reality, “there’s a real tough side to living with it.”

“Anyone with Tourette’s, like me, can reel off a long list of awkward, painful, hurtful and sometimes damaging times in our lives when we’ve been mocked or shunned because of someone’s else’s ignorance,” he said.

Some people tried to educate Chumley by telling her how inaccurate the headline was. Tics are involuntarily, and words that may be said as a tic aren’t lies. Whittaker explained verbal tics are actually seen by some as one of the “purest forms of honesty,” even if a verbal tic isn’t something a person wants to say out loud, adding:

The headline wasn’t just offensive — it was grossly inaccurate. To compare sputtering lies to people with Tourette’s is wrong. People with Tourette’s, particularly with coprolalia, have near-uncontrollable, involuntary urges to verbally tic words, sayings, and sometimes phrases that are often front of mind — such as things we see or things we think.

Coprolalia is a form of Tourette’s that leads people to say obscene or swear words. Though it is probably the most known form of the condition, it is actually one of the rarest forms, according to the Tourette Association of America. Other forms of verbal tics include echolalia and palilalia. The former makes people repeat another person’s words while the latter causes people to repeat their own words.

With comments flooding in, Chumley responded on both Twitter and Facebook. She mocked and belittled many people who expressed issues with the headline. In one tweet, Chumley said Democrats sputter lies involuntarily as a way to back up her use of Tourette’s.

“As much as the author took a known stereotype, she decided to stubbornly double-down on her remarks by criticizing those who are affected by Tourette’s instead of listening and hearing their concerns,” Whittaker said. “It takes courage and responsibility to admit a mistake, but it seems she just didn’t want to listen.”

When one Twitter user pointed out that people with Tourette’s do not “sputter lies nor deceive others,” Chumley implied she never said that, even though her headline read “sputter lies like they have Tourette’s syndrome.”

While the situation was negative and offensive for many, Whittaker said there is an upside:

As much as she mocked people with Tourette’s and used the condition to jibe at people whose political views are different, her remarks perhaps inadvertently had a positive effect. With more awareness these days about the condition, so many people know someone with Tourette’s. People responded with their strong voices, and the headline was changed. That was a powerful thing to see.

The Mighty has reached out to both Chumley and The Washington Times executive editor Christopher Dolan for comment.

Photo via The Washington Times

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