Author Naomi Wolf addressed an error at the center of her newly published book "Outrages" after appearing to realize during an on-air interview with BBC Radio that a portion was based on a misunderstanding.
Wolf's book, which focuses on 19th century laws and gay rights, mentioned a man named Thomas Silver who was "executed for sodomy" in 1859. She wrote in her book that there were "several dozen executions" of men accused of having sex with other men.
However, during an interview that aired Thursday, BBC Radio host Matthew Sweet challenged the claim and pointed out that she based that portion of her book on a misunderstanding of the historic legal term "death recorded."
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
“I don’t think you’re right about this," Sweet says in the interview. "[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.
"I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened,” he added.
The interview then briefly pauses before Wolf responds: “Well, that’s a really important thing to investigate.”
Wolf, a former political adviser to Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreTrump's election fraud claims pose risks for GOP in midterms Don't 'misunderestimate' George W. Bush Why the pro-choice movement must go on the offensive MORE and former President Clinton, took to Twitter on Friday to address the issue, and to say her book, which is set to release next month, is being updated. Wolf also shared corrected information on executions mentioned in her book.
Executions for sodomy: "In the period from 1810 to 1835, 46 people convicted of sodomy were hanged and 32 sentenced to death but reprieved. A further 716 were imprisoned or sentenced to the pillory, before its use was restricted in 1816."(See: Lauterbach and Alber (2009), p. 49.)— Dr Naomi Wolf (@naomirwolf) May 24, 2019
There is an error on on 71 and p 72 of my book Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love. 14 year old Thomas Silver, sentenced to death at the Old Bailey for sodomy, was not ultimately executed, nor was 60 year old John Spenser. Corrected. However....— Dr Naomi Wolf (@naomirwolf) May 24, 2019
Wolf and her publisher have argued that the overall thesis of her book holds true in light of the error and will be corrected.
“While HMH employs professional editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders for each book project, we rely ultimately on authors for the integrity of their research and fact-checking. Despite this unfortunate error we believe the overall thesis of the book ‘Outrages’ still holds. We are discussing corrections with the author,” publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said in a statement.