A mainstream Christian news site and a number of smaller, right-wing blogs published stories this week alleging that the American Psychiatric Association, or APA, had classified pedophilia as a sexual orientation.
"Just as the APA declared homosexuality an ‘orientation’ under tremendous pressure from homosexual activists in the mid-'70s, now, under pressure from pedophile activists, they have declared the desire for sex with children an ‘orientation,’ too. It's not hard to see where this will lead. More children will become sexual prey," said an article in Charisma News, a Christian media organization, quoting "cultural expert" Sandy Rios, a Fox News contributor and talking head for the anti-gay American Family Association's radio station.
The article quickly went viral, garnering over 100,000 Facebook shares within 24 hours of being published and lighting up the right-wing blogosphere. Among many bloggers and commenters, the shared sentiment was that this was a logical progression from the normalization of homosexuality that began in the 1960's.
The only problem is, the report wasn't true. The APA appears to have made a seemingly small mistake that set off a rapid chain reaction of confusion and hate.
In a text discussion of changes it made to the way it refers to sexually deviant behaviors in its updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM, for short), the APA accidentally called pedophilia a "sexual orientation." Conservative media outlets and pundits pounced on the statement and disseminated it on blogs and social networks.
The APA issued a statement to the press on Thursday, saying it had acted in "error," and clarifying that the only difference in how pedophilia is referred to from the last DSM is that "the disorder name was changed from 'pedophilia' to 'pedophilic disorder'" in order to "maintain consistency with the chapter’s other disorder listings."
Charisma News updated its article to say that "some are disputing" the claims made by Sandy Rios, but the article continues to be shared, and several of the blogs that picked up the story have yet to issue their own corrections.
Lila Shapiro contributed to this report.