On Sunday, the New York Times revised conservative columnist Bret Stephens’ op-ed “The Secrets of Jewish Genius,” which claimed that Ashkenazi Jews are intellectually superior, due to overwhelming backlash over the column citing a racist study.
Shortly after the op-ed was published on Friday, critics assailed Stephens and the Times for pushing the kind of race science favored by white supremacists.
This reasoning relies on the discredited pseudoscience of eugenics — and ideology which caused 70,000 Americans to be forcibly sterilized and led to the Holocaust.
Please fire Bret Stephens immediately. https://t.co/RRlpzH9q5b
— David Slack (@slack2thefuture) December 28, 2019
In fact, New York Times Magazine contributor Jody Rosen noted that one of the studies Stephens cited, “Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence,” was co-authored by white supremacist and eugenicist Henry Harpending.
In a lengthy editor’s note, the Times stated it had removed the study from the op-ed.
“After publication Mr. Stephens and his editors learned that one of the paper’s authors, who died in 2016, promoted racist views,” the note read. “Mr. Stephens was not endorsing the study or its authors’ views, but it was a mistake to cite it uncritically.”
The Times also asserted that it was “not his intent” to argue that “Jews are genetically superior.”
However, critics pointed out that not only did Stephens, in fact, endorse the study on Jewish intelligence by prefacing it with the sentence “When it comes to Ashkenazi Jews, it’s true,” the editor’s note also did not acknowledge that the Times had removed Stephens’ singling out of “Ashkenazi” Jews as the bearers of “Jewish genius.”
The red is what was removed—not sure what Stephens was doing here if not endorsing the idea that Ashkenazi Jews, specifically, are inherently more intelligent pic.twitter.com/8N9kKDsb2b
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) December 29, 2019
It was yet another PR disaster for Stephens, who had a spectacular meltdown in August after George Washington assistant professor Dave Karpf called him a “bedbug.” After Stephens emailed Karpf and his provost in an apparent effort to land Karpf in professional trouble, the aggrieved columnist deleted his Twitter account and wrote an op-ed comparing the “bedbug” joke to Nazi-era anti-Semitism.
Karpf himself slammed Stephens’ “Jewish Genius” column, saying that Stephens “is not a nuanced enough thinker to realize he is invoking race science here.”
“He really isn’t,” Karpf tweeted. “He doesn’t see the contradictions. He doesn’t think about the trajectory of his claims. He’s just filling column inches with his latest musings.”