The New York Times on Sunday revised a column by conservative commentator Bret Stephens that faced severe backlash, removing citation to “a 2005 paper that advanced a genetic hypothesis for the basis of intelligence among Ashkenazi Jews” by an author who “promoted racist views.”
The editors note at the top of Stephens’ Friday column, “The Secrets of Jewish Genius,” now says this: “An earlier version of this Bret Stephens column quoted statistics from a 2005 paper that advanced a genetic hypothesis for the basis of intelligence among Ashkenazi Jews. After publication Mr. Stephens and his editors learned that one of the paper’s authors, who died in 2016, promoted racist views.”
The paper in question, “Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence,” has been widely condemned for promoting anti-Semitic and eugenic views and was co-authored by the late anthropologist Henry Harpending, whom the Southern Policy Law Center has identified as a white nationalist.
The Times note also defends Stephens, who faced substantial criticism for the piece.
“Mr. Stephens was not endorsing the study or its authors’ views, but it was a mistake to cite it uncritically. 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. He went on instead to argue that culture and history are crucial factors in Jewish achievements and that, as he put it, ‘At its best, the West can honor the principle of racial, religious and ethnic pluralism not as a grudging accommodation to strangers but as an affirmation of its own diverse identity. In that sense, what makes Jews special is that they aren’t. They are representational.'”
Like the original column, the Times’ post-publication edit came under heavy fire.
“You do know you guys can edit for these things BEFORE publication, right?” tweeted Miranda Yaver, who has also written for the Times.
The Times did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.