A former advisor to Bill Clinton and Al Gore may have set a record for fastest discrediting of a book when a BBC interviewer showed her the central thesis was based on a misreading of legal terminology.
Naomi Wolf’s book, “Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love,” which is not even out for another month, makes the claim that the British government continued to execute people for sodomy long after it was previously thought the practice ended. Wolf looked at records from the Old Bailey and saw the term “death recorded,” a term she realizes in this interview actually refers to cases in which a sentence of death is passed but suspended.
Wolf claims to have found “several dozen executions.” Her research, she claims, “corrects a misapprehension that is in every website that the last man was executed for sodomy in Britain in 1835.”
“I don’t think you’re right about this,” the BBC’s Matthew Sweet replied to her in the interview.
The presenter pointed to the case of Thomas Silver in 1859. Wolf claims in her book that Silver was executed, but he was not. “Death recorded” meant that a judge used judicial discretion to suspend a death sentence, a practice in use since the 1820s.
“I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened,” Sweet added.
“That’s a really important thing to investigate,” Wolf replied. (RELATED: The Trumpire Strikes Back)
Sweet also added that the offense in question hardly makes a good example of same-sex love being criminalized, as it involved a 14 year-old’s “indecent assault” on a six year-old boy.
Listen to the clip here:
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
Wolf is a Yale graduate and Rhodes Scholar who did graduate work at Oxford.
Sweet, for his part, has since started a thread on Twitter explaining more in depth where he thinks Wolf went wrong.
For the record: Outrages says that the Victorians executed men for having sex with each other. This is a big claim that goes against every history of the subject I have read, and it is wrong. No Victorian man was ever executed for sodomy.
— Matthew Sweet (@DrMatthewSweet) May 23, 2019