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Emails between staff at the University of Washington and the Seattle Children¡¯s Hospital, who teamed up to publish a misleading study claiming puberty blockers led to better mental health outcomes for transgender youth, reveal that researchers were reluctant to correct it because of the positive media coverage they had received.
“As there is an overwhelming amount of positive coverage of the study¡¯s findings, I don¡¯t believe there¡¯s a need for a proactive response beyond continuing to monitor, but welcome your ideas for any other actions or messaging with the study team,” read part of an internal email from UW Department of Epidemiology spokesperson Laura East after the results of a study published by the department were called into question.
In multiple emails, which were obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH and reviewed by Fox News, staff from UW and the Seattle Children’s Hospital discuss how to handle criticism of the study, which was released earlier this year.
The study claimed that “gender-affirming care,” such as puberty blockers, led to positive mental health outcomes for transgender teenagers, while transgender teen patients who did not receive such care saw their mental health situation continue to deteriorate.
TRANSGENDER CHILDREN AREN¡¯T CONFUSED ABOUT THEIR GENDER IDENTITY, STUDY FINDS
Students at the University of Washington.
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
The study’s publication was accompanied by a glowing press release highlighting that “gender-affirming care¡ dramatically reduces” depression in teenage transgender patients, calling such care “lifesaving.”
“Researchers recently found that gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary adolescents caused rates of depression to plummet,” the release read.
The release also took aim at political opponents of such medical intervention, specifically calling out Republican-led efforts that have sought to limit its spread.
“This research comes as the nation¡¯s largest pediatric hospital announced this month it has stopped gender-affirming therapies after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state¡¯s child welfare agency to investigate reports of gender-affirming care for children as abuse. This week, a bill passed the Idaho State House which would make providing gender-affirming care a felony,” the press release stated.
TRANSGENDER KIDS HAVE GOOD MENTAL HEALTH WHEN ALLOWED TO BE THEMSELVES
However, UW’s characterization of the findings was called into question by independent journalist Jesse Singal, who began emailing questions to researchers in an attempt to gain access to the data used to draw their conclusions.
Researchers did not provide the data to Singal, who later published a lengthy Substack article attempting to poke significant holes in the study’s conclusions.
Protesters in support of transgender rights.
(Jake Crandall/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)
“What¡¯s surprising, in light of all these quotes, is that the kids who took puberty blockers or hormones experienced no statistically significant mental health improvement during the study,” Singal wrote in the article. “The claim that they did improve, which was presented to the public in the study itself, in publicity materials, and on social media (repeatedly) by one of the authors, is false.”
Singal also raised questions about the statistical approach, which could not be verified without access to the data the researchers used to draw their conclusions. He argued that the inability to verify the data called the “validity of this research” into question.
Fox News has also requested the data used for the study from the university but has not received a response.
Emails between the university and children’s hospital staff show that they quickly realized that Singal’s article presented them with significant problems, but they remained unsure on how to push back.
MANY HORMONE DOCTORS FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE WITH TRANSGENDER PATIENTS
“FYI, I read through his exceedingly long (very, very long) article, which claimed the research was flawed or, at worst, made up, but given the extremely positive pick up by mainstream media, I would agree and just let this be,” UW Medicine Communications Manager Barbara Clement said in an email to UW Medicine spokesperson Susan Gregg.
“If it gives too much attention to clarify at all, I am also very open to not responding,” read part of an email from Assistant Professor in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Seattle Children¡¯s Hospital and UW Medicine Dr. Kym Ahrens, one of the authors of the study.
However, East seemed to acknowledge that Singal’s digging and subsequent article could be problematic, voicing in one email that the journalist raised “concerning claims.”
“The article resulting from the inquiry was recently posted on the author¡¯s Substack, and includes some pretty concerning claims. UW Epidemiology/UW SPH/UW News will not be including this article in our media tracking/or otherwise driving traffic to this piece,” East said in one email.
BROWN U. CENSORS ‘GENDER DYSPHORIA’ STUDY, WORRIED THAT FINDINGS MIGHT ‘INVALIDATE THE PERSPECTIVES’ OF TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY
The decision not to respond was seconded by Clements and Seattle Children¡¯s Hospital communications specialist Madison Joseph, who said the hospital would “continue to not engage” with media inquiries critical of the study.
Some staff members speculated that those questioning the study’s results had an “agenda,” with some emails noting that many of the inquiries were originating from conservative outlets.
Students at the University of Washington are on campus for the last day of in-person classes.
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
“Laurel Duggan is from the Daily Caller, which was launched by Tucker Carlson,” one staffer wrote.
Nevertheless, the criticism led UW to start quietly making edits to the original release, with Gregg acknowledging in one email that the producer behind the release “originally misinterpreted the data.”
OPPOSING BIOLOGICAL MALES IN WOMEN’S SPORTS COST ME MY JOB AS AUSTIN’S FIRE CHAPLAIN, NOW I’M SUING
Replacing the part that read depression rates had “plummeted,” UW changed the release to read that “gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary adolescents likely decreased rates of depression and suicidality.”
Even that characterization was called into question in Singal’s critique, something researchers seemingly acknowledged while asking for more tweaks to the language.
“I think it is important to note that this language is still not quite accurate. We did not observe a decrease in the rates of depression,” read one email. “We saw that youth who initiated PB/GAH has a lower odds [sic] of depression compared to youth who didn¡¯t because depressive symptoms significantly worsened among youth who did NOT initiate PB/GAH.”
On April 8, more than a month after publishing the original release, UW added an editor’s note to the top of the page that noted that “language has been updated below to more directly reflect the findings as reported in the study.”
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Questioned by KTTH as to why the university did not more proactively seek to correct the misleading release, a UW spokesperson told the outlet that “the transgender research was no longer a news story” by the time the correction was made.
“We felt it was adequate to update our newsroom as many online and print publications do when there is an error,” the statement read. “The original media coverage was positive and I don¡¯t think that reissuing the press release would have changed that.”
The University of Washington did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.
Michael Lee is a writer at Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee