Naomi Wolf Demands Retraction of My Article For Good of Her "Reputation"
PR reps for the Lenny Dykstra of the anti-vax movement included a subtle legal threat in their email
On September 8, I received an email from PR firm the Kleio Group asking that I retract an article I wrote in June about conspiracy theorist Naomi Wolf.
“Your false characterizations concerning Dr. Wolf seem reckless at best or written with actual knowledge that they create false impressions of Dr. Wolf and put her in a false light with the apparent intent to harm her reputation and credibility,” Kleio Group principal Emily Kaplan wrote.
Since being booted off of Twitter for spreading misinformation, Wolf has taken to the airwaves, appearing on alleged Jeffrey-Epstein-media-advisor Steve Bannon’s “War Room” show, and tweeted via her husband’s account.
My article, “Fresh Off Twitter Ban, Naomi Wolf to Headline Anti-Vax Juneteenth Event,” described Wolf’s headlining of a talk/potluck the organizers of which likened the fight against common sense health mandates by anti-vaxxers to the centuries-long struggle against chattel slavery in the US. The event would later be cancelled, as I detailed in a follow-up piece.
I will not be retracting my article.
Your support makes these stories possible. Sign up now for 20% off an annual subscription.
I wasn’t Wolf’s only target; there was at least one other journalist she took aim at. Malachi Barrett, a reporter for Michigan’s MLive, tweeted that he received a threatening letter from Wolf’s attorneys demanding they retract an article on “experts”—of which Wolf was one—being called upon to back up the baseless beliefs of anti-vax conspiracy theorists.
The email I received from Kaplan, while not from a lawyer, also hinted at legal consequences.
“Every individual publisher is legally responsible for their own content and the accuracy of their content in isolation of any other news organization,” Kaplan wrote. “We are hopeful you will retract your piece given this information we’re sharing.”
The problem with any possible legal action against myself, Barrett, or anyone who’s written about Wolf—whether the charges are for defamation or libel—is that she has no reputation to speak of. In that regard, Wolf is like Lenny Dykstra, the former Mets player whose defamation case against fellow former Met Ron Darling was thrown out because his character was so low it couldn’t be defamed.
This Court finds that, as a matter of law, the reference cannot "induce an evil opinion of [Dykstra] in the minds of right-thinking persons" or "deprive him of their friendly intercourse in society," as that "evil opinion" has long existed.
I’ve asked Wolf for an interview to air her concerns over my reporting; so far, via Kaplan, she’s been noncommittal. I’ll keep you all posted.
Most of Kalpan’s grievances in her retraction demand aren’t worth going over. The pushback to my article, such as it is, rambles. But her complaint over my citing Wolf’s February tweet claiming that vaccines could allow people to travel back in time is worth reading as an illustrative example of the general thrust of the argument.
The tweets you source in this piece lack context which would have shown the relevance of her messaging. For example, her tweet about “time travel” was about an Apple product she overheard two employees discussing.
Apple did have a product, a feature of its Apple Watch which was called “Time Travel.” Dr. Wolf’s deleted tweet was reporting on a conversation she had overheard and clearly misunderstood. The use of nanotech in vaccines is also a fact, not a theory and certainly not a conspiracy. If you require documentation on this, we can certainly provide it but are confident a general search of terms including, MIT, Stanford, Nature, etc will provide you sufficient research to suffice, if you were unaware of these biotech innovations.
And so on.
Kaplan also claimed that my article was “factually inconsistent with Dr. Wolf’s long and documented professional history of producing high-quality non-fiction books on politics, women’s health, and other issues as well as her public reputation as a famous author and public speaker.”
But that’s an inaccurate read of Wolf’s body of work, and her most recent foray into “producing high-quality non-fiction books” shows exactly why.
Wolf made headlines when the central claim behind her 2019 book Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love—that there were “several dozen executions” of homosexuals in Victorian England—was exposed as false.
“Several dozen executions? I don’t think you’re right about this,” the host, Matthew Sweet, said, very politely filleting one of Wolf’s central claims. What Wolf regarded as evidence of executions — the notation of “death recorded” on court records — indicated, in fact, the opposite, that the judge had recommended a pardon from the death sentence. Sweet said he could find no evidence that anyone had ever been executed for sodomy in Victorian Britain, and furthermore, that Wolf mistakenly regarded sodomy in the court records as referring exclusively to homosexuality when, in fact, it was also used for child abuse. “I can’t find any evidence that any of the relationships you describe were consensual,” he pointed out.
Shortly thereafter, in June, the book was pulled by its US publisher. A paperback edition in the UK ostensibly corrected the oversights, but Sweet, in an interview with the Telegraph, said the text is still misleading and misrepresents “the experiences of victims of child abuse and violent sexual assault.”
“This is the most profound offense against her discipline, as well as the memories of real people on the historical record,” Sweet said.
If you liked this story, please consider a subscription.