The National Archives website features a “harmful language alert” that appears above all content in its online catalog, including the Constitution and other founding documents, but also including recent documents like a photo of the Obamas at the 2013 presidential inauguration. Some conservatives are reacting to this as an example of D.C. bureaucracy tampering with American history.
“What are we becoming? Now the National Archives posts a “Harmful Language Alert” on its website when you pull up the U.S. Constitution?! Are you kidding me,” former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli tweeted Monday.
The Virginia Star asked both the Youngkin and McAuliffe campaigns for comment, but received no response by press time.
National Archives staff told The Star that the alert is not linked to any specific content.
“The warning is placed there because the Catalog contains some content that may be graphic or difficult to view. Our records span the history of the United States, and it is our charge to preserve and make available these historical records. As a result, some of the materials presented here may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions. In addition, some of the materials may relate to violent or graphic events and are preserved for their historical significance,” the spokesperson said.
In response to a similar comment from the Archives on Twitter, Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Mike Gonzalez tweeted, “Translation: Don’t worry—that warning is on ALL OF the nation’s historical materials! That’s supposed to be better?”
An FAQ focused on the alert states, “What harmful or difficult content may be found in the National Archives Catalog and our web pages? Some items may: reflect racist, sexist, ableist, misogynistic/misogynoir, and xenophobic opinions and attitudes; be discriminatory towards or exclude diverse views on sexuality, gender, religion, and more; include graphic content of historical events such as violent death, medical procedures, crime, wars/terrorist acts, natural disasters and more; demonstrate bias and exclusion in institutional collecting and digitization policies.”
The Archives spokesperson did not say when the content warning was added or who authorized it, but in April the Archives published recommendations from an internal task force on racism. One of the recommendations states, “Engage in a comprehensive reparative description program, ensuring that our historical records are described using respectful, accurate, and discoverable terminology. Alert users to potentially harmful content in the National Archives Catalog; create a road map for correcting harmful language; and develop processes to correct description for under-described and over-described records.”
It also called for re-imagining the National Archives Rotunda “to create a more inclusive and historically accurate tribute to the nation’s founding.”
That triggered Republican anger on Fox News in June. Congressman James Comer, (R-KY-01) told Fox, “America should be celebrated, not reviled — especially by our own federal government. This report is a prime example of government waste. Taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund a woke agenda seeking to revise America’s history.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].