An author realized during an on-air interview that a portion of her book is inaccurate because of her mistaken interpretation of a historic legal term, The Hill reports.
Naomi Wolf, a progressive writer who first came to prominence in the early 1990s as a major proponent of the third wave of the feminist movement and later went on to serve as a political adviser to both Bill Clinton and Al Gore, was speaking to BBC Radio about her newly published book Outrages when she realized something was amiss. Her book centers on gay rights and laws in the 19th century. In one portion of the book, Wolf mentions that “several dozen” men were executed because of their sexual orientation.
One of the men mentioned by Wolf is someone named Thomas Silver who was “executed for sodomy” in 1859. But while Wolf contended in her book that Silver, like many other men of his time, was being executed for being gay, BBC Radio host Matthew Sweet pointed out to her that she had based that portion of her book on a misunderstanding of the historic legal term “death recorded.” According to him, “death recorded” was a legal term introduced in 1823 to help judges, and had nothing to do with executions.
“I don’t think you’re right about this. [Death recorded] doesn’t mean that he was executed. It was a category that was created in 1823 that allowed judges to abstain from pronouncing a sentence of death on any capital convict whom they considered to be a fit subject for pardon,” Sweet informs Wolf.
“I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened.”
Wolf is understandably stunned by this revelation and after a pause lasting a few seconds, Wolf agrees that it is a matter which needs to be investigated. You can hear the exact exchange between them in the tweet below.
— The Hill (@thehill) May 25, 2019
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
Although it was an embarrassing moment for the writer on-air, the good thing that seems to have come out of all this is the fact that Wolf gets the opportunity to issue corrections in Outrages before the book releases next month. After her radio interview led to further research, Wolf took to Twitter to address the issue. She clarified that the book will be updated with the new findings, and also mentioned some of the corrections. However, she maintained that the overall essence of her book has not been compromised because of her inaccurate representation of a legal term.