Naomi Wolf’s U.S. publisher blamed the feminist author for several major factual misinterpretations in her new book.
The longtime writer and former Democratic strategist appeared on the BBC on Thursday to promote her new book, Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love, which explores the criminalization of homosexuality in the U.K. in the 19th century.
But during the interview, host Matthew Sweet seemed to unwind a key claim in the book: that dozens of men were executed under a sodomy law that existed in the U.K. at the time. Sweet pointed out that Wolf—who said she based her book’s findings on specific legal records—misinterpreted the phrase “death recorded,” and that in fact there was no evidence to show the examples in the book were actual executions.
In a brief email, Wolf said she had already made “two corrections,” and said she would have further comment later.
In a separate statement to The Daily Beast, a spokesperson for Wolf’s U.S. publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, said the company was considering adding a correction.
“While HMH employs professional editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders for each book project, we rely ultimately on authors for the integrity of their research and fact-checking,” the spokesperson said. “Despite this unfortunate error we believe the overall thesis of the book OUTRAGES still holds. We are discussing corrections with the author.”
The misinterpretation of the executions wasn’t the only error in Wolf’s book.
Wolf also backed up her assertions about executions using claims made by an author who has been labeled as a hoaxer by critics. Sweet also pointed out during Thursday’s interview that while Wolf assumed the use of “sodomy” in legal records was synonymous with homosexuality, at least once she had misinterpreted the term, mistaking child abuse for a consensual relationship.
“All the others that I followed up—I can’t find any evidence that any of the relationships you describe were consensual,” Sweet said.
The fallout from Thursday’s interview was swift.
A clip of the interview went viral on Twitter. Wolf cancelled a separate planned interview, thanked Sweet for his insights, and promised to issue a correction.
Many observers pointed out that in recent years, Wolf has repeatedly been criticized for unproven and outright false claims in her writing.
The author has a longtime fixation with conspiracy theories. Vox pointed out in 2014 that she had suggested the U.S. was trying to purposefully spread Ebola in America to justify a military takeover. She also questioned the legitimacy of a Scottish referendum on the U.K., and the validity of infamous videos of horrifying ISIS beheading videos.