Author Naomi Wolf is not having a good week. While appearing on BBC to promote her book “Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love,” journalist Matthew Sweet brought to Wolf’s attention that she had made two monumental errors in her book, errors that essentially tear apart the entire thesis of the work.
One of the topics covered in Wolf’s book is the supposed execution of homosexual men throughout history for their sexual preferences. Sweet pointed out that after some fairly light research that Wolf had misunderstood two terms that were central to her stories.
First, Wolf assumed when researching that courts were referring to homosexuality when talking about “sodomy,” but in at least one case she puts forth in the book, it actually refers to the molestation of a six-year-old boy. This means Wolf wrote about a man she assumed was put on trial for homosexuality, but he was actually put on trial for the sexual abuse of a child.
She made an even bigger mistake by misrepresenting what the legal term “death recorded” meant in 19th century England. Wolf assumed the term meant that someone was executed by the state, but Sweet again proved her wrong with light research. Sweet pointed out that “death recorded” does not refer to execution, but actually refers to someone being pardoned and freed from prison. This means the “dozens of executions” Wolf refers to in her book of homosexuals are likely all fake news. Sweet even points out that that at least one man in Wolf’s book that she said died lived well past when the author claimed he was executed.
“I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened,” Sweet said at one point in his interview.
Wolf said she found “several dozen” executions of homosexuals in her research before Sweet stepped in and schooled her. Wolf claimed the last man executed for being a homosexual in Britain was in 1835.
“I don’t think you’re right about this,” Sweet responded.
Sweet continued by saying the fact that Wolf misunderstood the term “death recorded” meant almost all of the examples in her book are completely wrong.
“[Death recorded] doesn’t mean that he was executed,” said Sweet, referring to one specific case from Wolf’s book. “It was a category that was created in 1823 that allowed judges to abstain from pronouncing a sentence of death on any capitol convict whom they considered to be a fit subject for pardon.”
Caught red-handed, Wolf could barely muster a response.
“Well, that’s a very important thing to investigate,” she said.
Sweet then took things a step further and presented Wolf with records that showed at least one person from her book was not executed, but instead discharged from prison. Sweet had prison records and a newspaper report that proved Wolf wrong.
You can listen to the actual audio below. It is pure gold:
Everyone listen to Naomi Wolf realize on live radio that the historical thesis of the book she's there to promote is based on her misunderstanding a legal term pic.twitter.com/a3tB77g3c1
— Edmund Hochreiter (@thymetikon) May 23, 2019
Sadly, this small exchange exemplifies larger issues with fact-checking in today’s world. If you’re batting for “social justice” or leftist points, many in the media won’t fact check you and this is why the term “fake news” has become so popular. Sweet deserves credit for calling out Wolf and making sure he showed the author for what she is live on the air.