After a public uproar, The New York Times has revised a column by Bret Stephens that cited an academic paper co-authored by an anthropologist who has been branded a white nationalist.
An editor’s note, appended to the column headlined “The Secrets of Jewish Genius,” says a reference to the 2005 study was removed and that Stephens did not know the author “promoted racist views.”
“Mr. Stephens was not endorsing the study or its authors’ views, but it was a mistake to cite it uncritically,” the note said. “The effect was to leave an impression with many readers that Mr. Stephens was arguing that Jews are genetically superior. That was not his intent.” It noted that he “went on instead to argue that culture and history are crucial factors in Jewish achievements.”
In the column, Stephens posed a question about Jews: “How is it that a people who never amounted even to one-third of 1 percent of the world’s population contributed so seminally to so many of its most pathbreaking ideas and innovations?”
He said that Jews “are, or tend to be, smart” and then cited the 2005 paper “Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence” by Gregory Cochran, Jason Hardy, and Henry Harpending, which declares that Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average I.Q. of any ethnic group.
It was quickly pointed out on social media that Harpending, who died in 2016, was listed as an extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which listed his ideology as “white nationalist.”
“Harpending has given talks on these ideas at white supremacist conferences, and is widely celebrated among white supremacists on forums like Stormfront and the Vanguard News Network, who see a champion for their cause behind his academic rhetoric,” the center said.
Nieman Lab scholar Joshua Benton also pointed out in a Twitter thread that Cochran has a history of homophobia.
In the paper “An Evolutionary Look at Human Homosexuality,” Cochran wrote that homosexuality, from a biological perspective, is “surely a disease.”
“So it’s a bug,” Cochran wrote. “Somehow, the brain has been damaged, but in a limited and focused way.”
Stephens—who previously stirred outrage by calling a professor’s boss to complain he compared him to a bedbug on Twitter—has not commented directly on the last controversy.