The New York Times has defended an op-ed written by columnist Bret Stephens on Friday which provoked heavy criticism and led to canceled subscriptions.
Critics said Stephens’ column promoted a racist theory called eugenics and referenced a scientifically questionable 2005 paper written by a professor with ties to white nationalist groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In its correction, The Times said that the endorsement of Jews being genetically superior was “not [Stephens’] intent.”
The Times also removed reference to the 2005 paper, stating that it promoted “a racist hypothesis.”
The New York Times defended an op-ed written by columnist Bret Stephens on Friday which provoked heavy criticism and led to canceled subscriptions.
In the column, titled “The Secrets of Jewish Genius,” Stephens explores the idea that Jewish people, in particular the Ashkenazi Jewish ethnic group, are predisposed to be more intelligent than other groups.
Notably, the article referenced a 2005 paper measuring IQ which was scientifically questioned and written by a professor with ties to white nationalist groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Backlash to the article argued that the assertion also promoted a school of thought called eugenics, which suggests that the human race can be improved by encouraging the reproduction of people with “desirable traits.” This same ideology has been used to justify atrocities like slavery and the Holocaust.
Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii wrote that the column “crossed a very important line and for no reason other than to be provocative.”
In a tweet on Sunday, The New York Times Opinion said that Stephens’ column argues “that culture and history drive Jewish achievements.” It also said it removed reference to the 2005 paper that promoted “a racist hypothesis.”
The Times has since updated Stephens’ article with a correction, which states that the endorsement of Jews being genetically superior was “not [Stephens’] intent.”
“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,” The Times wrote.
“After publication, Mr. Stephens and his editors learned that one of the paper’s authors, who died in 2016, promoted racist views. 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.'”
The Times also removed the reference to the study from the op-ed.
Many readers appeared unimpressed by The Times’ decision to keep Stephens’ op-ed up despite the controversy.
Some called on The Times to better vet its op-eds prior to publication.
—Erin Decade Enjoyer Ryan (@morninggloria) December 29, 2019
While others urged the paper to fire Stephens’ as an opinion columnist.
—Mara “Get Rid of the Nazis” Wilson (@MaraWilson) December 29, 2019
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