Dr. Fauci says a third booster shot for COVID-19 ‘might likely happen’ for people who are immunocompromised

anthony fauci
Dr. Fauci testifying at a US Senate hearing on COVID-19 in September 2020.

  • On CNN Sunday morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci said a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot “might likely happen.”
  • Emerging data from Israel indicates that the two-shot Pfizer vaccine could be less effective against the Delta variant.
  • As Delta causes a surge in cases, Fauci said the coronavirus outbreak is now “a pandemic among the unvaccinated.”
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s infectious disease expert and President Biden’s chief medical advisor, says that a third COVID vaccine booster shot “might likely happen.”

On CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning, Fauci told anchor Jake Tapper that the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is looking at evolving data that could recommend a thirdbooster shot, particularly for vulnerable and immunocompromised people.

“It’s a work in progress,” Fauci said of the CDC’s stance on a vaccine booster shot. “It evolves, like in so many other areas of the pandemic. You have got to look at the data.”

Fauci said the ACIP is still examining preliminary data from Israel and Pfizer that suggests the Pfizer vaccine could be less effective at protecting against infection from the Delta variant than other variants of the disease.

New data from Israel suggests the Pfizer vaccine was just 39% effective at preventing nationwide infections in late June and early July, while it had been found 95% effective from January to early April, the New York Times reported. However, the vaccine was still over 90% effective at preventing severe infection and hospitalization.

A separate study from the UK indicated that the Pfizer vaccine was still 88% effective against symptomatic Delta infections after two shots.

As to whether or not a booster shot would improve the effectiveness rates, Fauci said that the committee will “continue to look at the data that might push us in that direction.”

The Delta variant now makes up about 80% of all new cases in the US, according to CDC data. In the middle of June, the variant made up just 20.6% of the all COVID cases in the US.

Given this current surge in cases, Fauci described COVID-19 as “a pandemic among the unvaccinated,” which still accounts for nearly 50% of eligible Americans.

“It’s like we have two kinds of America,” Fauci said.

Read more: Fauci says fully vaccinated people ‘might want to consider’ wearing a mask indoors as a precaution against the Delta variant

When asked if people should still wear masks in public, Fauci acknowledged that CDC currently says that those who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear a mask indoors. He added, however, that the Center supports the ability and discretion of local officials to reinstate mask requirements in areas of the country that are experiencing a spike in infections, such as Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Chicago.

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Fauci says fully vaccinated people ‘might want to consider’ wearing a mask indoors as a precaution against the Delta variant

Dr. Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, adjusts a face mask.

  • Fully vaccinated Americans may “want to consider” masks indoors, Dr. Fauci said.
  • Fauci said the Delta variant had an “extraordinary capability of transmitting from person to person.”
  • More fully vaccinated Americans are catching COVID-19, albeit with milder, or no, symptoms.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US’ top doctor, said fully vaccinated people may “want to consider” wearing masks indoors to help protect against the Delta coronavirus variant, which is spreading fast across the country.

Dr. Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, told CNBC on Wednesday that “if you want to go the extra mile of safety even though you’re vaccinated when you’re indoors, particularly in crowded places, you might want to consider wearing a mask.”

Fauci explained that wearing a mask indoors was “suggested” when a virus was spreading fast in a community.

The Delta variant is more infectious, and has mutations that help it avoid the body’s immune response. As it spreads in the US, more fully-vaccinated Americans are catching COVID-19 – albeit with milder, or no, symptoms.

“This virus is clearly different than the viruses and the variants that we’ve had experience with before. It has an extraordinary capability of transmitting from person to person,” Fauci said.

The Centers for Disease for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that fully-vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks, except in certain situations, for example during flights.

States, workplaces and businesses can enforce their own mask rules.

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: ‘The possibilities are endless’

The public health body has come under pressure to review it’s guidance in recent weeks due to the emergence of the Delta variant, which is at least 50% more infectious than the formerly-dominant Alpha variant.

Delta now accounts for 83% of all new infections in the US. The nation recorded 52,032 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Jerome Adams, former Surgeon General, said Sunday that “the emerging data suggests CDC should be advising to vax it and mask it.” The World Health Organization said June 26 that fully-vaccinated people should wear masks in public settings.

More than 161 million Americans are fully-vaccinated, or 48% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some states have already urged fully-vaccinated citizens to put their masks back on.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said June 28 that it “strongly recommends everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places as a precautionary measure,” citing the more-infectious Delta variant.

Clark County, Nevada, home to Las Vegas, re-introduced mask mandates indoors for all workers on Wednesday.

Despite his views on masks, Fauci said that “the easiest and best and most effective way that we can prevent the emergence of a new variant and crush the already existing Delta variant is to get everyone vaccinated.”

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is 88% effective at preventing COVID-19 with symptoms caused by the Delta variant, according to real-world UK data published Wednesday.

In the US, 99.5% of COVID-19 deaths are among unvaccinated people. “That is a statistic that speaks for itself,” Fauci said.

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CDC should admit it was wrong and urge vaccinated Americans to wear masks again, says former surgeon general who served under Trump

jerome adams surgeon general masks
Former President Donald Trump watches as former US Surgeon General Jerome Adams holds up his face mask in April 2020.

  • Former Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams on Saturday said the CDC should advise mask wearing.
  • Adams said “the emerging data suggests CDC should be advising to vax it AND mask it.”
  • CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Friday said it’s become a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
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Former Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams on Saturday said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should extend its mask requirements, amid the rise of COVID-19 variants.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in late June said fully vaccinated Americans don’t need masks in most public places. Adams on Saturday said officials should admit those statements were “premature.”

“Instead of vax it OR mask it, the emerging data suggests CDC should be advising to vax it AND mask it in areas with [rising] cases and positivity – until we see numbers going back down again,” Adams said on Twitter. “CDC was well intended, but the message was misinterpreted, premature, & wrong. Let’s fix it.”

He added: “The sooner CDC says we were wrong, & hits the reset button, the better.”

Walensky on Friday said COVID-19 was “becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated” in the US. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk,” she said during a press briefing.

Adams, who served under President Donald Trump, said in a Twitter thread that current CDC leaders were making the same mistake he’d made while leading the pandemic response.

Adams and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease scientist, said in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic that masks weren’t necessary.

But the CDC was recommending masks by April 2020.

“Last year Tony Fauci and I famously, prematurely, & wrongly advised against masks. I felt it was the best call at the time, but now regret it,” he said. “I’m worried the CDC also made a similarly premature, misinterpreted, yet still harmful call on masking in the face of [rising] delta variant.”

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is selling ‘Don’t Fauci My Florida’ merch as the state reports some of the highest number of COVID cases in the US

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Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is selling campaign merch that mocks COVID-19 expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.
  • The new T-shirts and koozies read “Don’t Fauci My Florida.”
  • Florida is battling some of the highest COVID-19 cases and deaths in the US.
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Amid some of the highest rates of COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations, and infections in the US, Florida’s GOP governor, Ron DeSantis, is mocking White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci with campaign merchandise released this week.

DeSantis’ campaign team rolled out T-shirts and koozies reading “Don’t Fauci My Florida” on Monday, in the latest Republican stunt against COVID-19 measures.

The one-term governor is running for reelection in the 2022 Florida gubernatorial race, but the GOP rising star is also seen as a potential Republican frontrunner in the 2024 presidential election.

Since the pandemic began more than a year ago, DeSantis has positioned himself as a vocal opponent to lockdown measures, keeping most of Florida’s schools and businesses open in spite of public-health experts’ calls for social distancing.

Other T-shirts and hats on the DeSantis campaign site read “Keep Florida Free” while certain beer koozies sport a key DeSantis quote that reads “”How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?”

DeSantis’ campaign did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

It’s not the first time DeSantis has slammed Fauci, who also serves as the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In early June, when COVID cases in the state had plateaued as vaccinations became widely available, DeSantis said Florida was faring so well economically because the state did not follow Fauci’s advice.

Fauci has been a vocal proponent of face masks, vaccinations, and social distancing in the face of the pandemic – measures that many conservatives have rallied against, helping to turn Fauci, a medical expert, into a polarizing political figure over the last year.

“We’re going to end up probably having like $10 million in reserve once the new budget takes effect,” DeSantis said in June. “That would not have been possible if we had followed Fauci. Instead we followed freedom. And that’s the reason Florida is doing better.

But the virus outlook in the state has turned worrisome in recent weeks.

As of Wednesday, Florida had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths per capita in the US and the second-highest number of daily reported cases per capita, falling only behind Arkansas, according to The Washington Post COVID-19 tracker..

Fauci, for his part, has brushed off the conservative backlash towards him, previously calling the response “bizarre.”

The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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Fauci said there should be vaccine mandates at the local level but that the federal government will not mandate them

  • The White House missed its goal of vaccinating 70% of US adults by July 4 amid vaccine hesitancy.
  • Fauci said he supports vaccine mandates at the local level, like at schools and businesses.
  • He also said the vaccines are as good as approved, but that formal full approval may help combat hesitancy.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday he believes there should be more COVID-19 vaccine mandates at the local level, though he continues to say the federal government will not mandate them.

Fauci, the longtime director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was speaking on CNN’s State of the Union when Jake Tapper asked him if he supports local vaccine mandates at places like schools and businesses.

“I do believe at the local level there should be more mandates,” Fauci said. “We’re talking about life and death situation. We’ve lost 600,000 Americans already and we’re still losing more people. There’ve been 4 million deaths worldwide, so I am in favor of that.”

Read more: How anti-vaxxers are engineering a wave of legal battles to fight mandatory workplace Covid jabs

Fauci said he believes part of the reason groups are hesitant to mandate vaccines is because they have not been fully approved. The coronavirus vaccines used in the US have received emergency use authorization, which can be used by the Food and Drug Administration during public health emergencies. But Fauci said the data behind the vaccines is robust.

“The amount of data right now that shows a high degree of effectiveness and a high degree of safety is more than we’ve ever seen with emergency use authorization,” he said. “These vaccines are as good as officially approved, with all the Is dotted and the Ts crossed.”

Fauci said they haven’t received full approval due to processes that have to take place at the FDA but that “it’s as good as done.” He predicted that once they are formally approved, there may be more local mandates.

About 59% of American adults are fully vaccinated, with the US falling short of the White House’s goal to have inoculated 70% of adults by July 4. Vaccines are widely available but public health officials are working to combat vaccine hesitancy, particularly among Republicans.

At a Conservative Political Action Conference event in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, a crowd cheered about the US failing to meet its vaccination goal. Speaking on CNN, Fauci called the reaction “horrifying.”

“They are cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives,” he said.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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Fauci opened up about the hate mail he receives, with people calling him Hitler and sending death threats to his wife and daughters

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about the harassment he faces on a recent New York Times podcast.
  • The infectious disease expert has been called a fascist and received death threats targeting his family.
  • Fauci chalked up the most extreme comments to politicized misinformation.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci has received an overwhelming amount of public attention in the past year and a half, and it would be an understatement to say it’s not all been positive.

Some Trump supporters and COVID-19 deniers put the infectious disease expert at the center of outlandish conspiracy theories about the virus. The vitriol has only intensified following the recent release of thousands of Fauci’s emails to multiple national media outlets.

Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House chief medical advisor, addressed the criticism on Sunday, when he appeared on the New York Times Opinion’s “Sway” podcast.

His goal is to “parse the science from the politics,” Fauci said.

“What I do is I concentrate on my job,” Fauci told “Sway” host Kara Swisher. “And when I concentrate on my job, I put very little weight in the adulation and very little weight in the craziness of condemning me.”

As much as Fauci tries to tune out the noise – he’s not on Facebook or Twitter – he can’t ignore the impact on his family, he said. The death threats and “obscene notes” targeting his wife and daughters have been among the worst of the harassment.

Swisher also brought up some of the recent personal attacks on Fauci, from Roger Stone comparing the doctor to Hitler to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “freedom over faucism” tweet.

Fauci said that kind of backlash – “an organized effort to essentially discredit the truth,” he called it – has dissuaded some of his colleagues from publicly speaking about vaccines. However, he said the more extreme the comment is, the more political he believes it to be.

“Here’s a guy whose entire life has been devoted to saving lives, and now you’re telling me he’s like Hitler? Come on, folks. Get real,” Fauci said.

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Fauci brushes off GOP criticism and says attacks on him are ‘attacks on science’ that he can debunk ‘immediately’

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday said that attacks on him were “attacks on science.”
  • Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn accused Fauci Tuesday of working with Mark Zukerberg and “cherry-picking” facts.
  • Fauci said he could “debunk” every criticism of his decisions, which were “fundamentally based on science.”
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Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that all his COVID-19 recommendations were “fundamentally based on science,” following criticism from a Republican senator.

Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, told NBC News that “attacks on me, quite frankly, are attacks on science.”

“If you are trying to, you know, get at me as a public health official and a scientist, you are really attacking not only Anthony Fauci, you are attacking science,” Fauci said. “And anybody that looks at what is going on clearly sees that.”

Tennessee’s Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn posted a video Tuesday accusing Fauci of working with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and “cherry-picking” facts so the public only knew what Zuckerberg and Fauci wanted them to know.

Fauci said Wednesday that he didn’t want to criticize a US senator, but had “no idea what she was talking about.”

Fauci has received criticism from GOP leaders throughout the pandemic. Some GOP leaders have asked Fauci to resign over his handling of COVID-19 and his view that it is “highly unlikely” that the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China. They have also criticized Fauci for asking Americans to wear masks to protect against the virus.

Former President Donald Trump said Saturday at North Carolina’s Republican Party convention that Fauci had “been wrong on almost every issue and he was wrong on Wuhan and the lab also.”

Fauci told NBC News that he could go through every single criticism he’d faced and “debunk it immediately.”

He used his mask guidance as an example.

Initially, there was a shortage of masks, alongside no evidence mask-wearing outside a hospital worked and no awareness of asymptomatic spread, he said. Fauci said that, in time, it became clear that there was no mask shortage, that data showed mask-wearing outside hospitals worked, and that 50% of people with COVID-19 had no symptoms.

“That’s when we said we gotta get people to wear masks,” he said.

Fauci said that this exemplified the scientific process. “You make a guideline based on what you know at the time. As a scientist, as a health official, when those data change, when you get more information, it’s essential that you change your position because you got to be guided by the science and the current data,” he said.

Instead, “people want to fire me, or put me in jail for what I’ve done,” Fauci said. “Lately everything I say gets taken out of context,” he said.

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Fauci sometimes gets 2,000 emails a day – but never deletes them and feels he has a ‘responsibility’ to reply to them all

Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious-disease expert, feels compelled to reply to the thousands of emails that ping through a day.

  • Dr. Fauci said in a WSJ event that he feels compelled to read and reply to his thousands of daily emails.
  • “I get asked a lot of questions that are medical questions [from] people who need help,” Fauci said.
  • “People tell me that, ‘why don’t you just wipe the screen clean?'” he said. “You can’t do that. You just can’t.”
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Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that he feels an urge to reply to each of the thousands of emails that fall into his inbox every day.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease said in the Wall Street Journal’s online Tech Health event that he feels a “responsibility” to respond to the mountain of emails, per CNBC. He sometimes stays up “late into the night” responding, he said.

“I am the type of person, I get asked a lot of questions that are medical questions [from] people who need help,” Fauci said. “I’ve never been able to lose that feeling of responsibility of when people reach out to you and ask for help that you respond to them. So, I do that, [and] that takes a lot of time.”

Fauci, the US’s top infectious-disease expert, wrote in an email to a friend in March 2020 that he was receiving more than 2,000 emails a day, according to emails obtained by Buzzfeed and The Washington Post.

The emails showed requests for advice, interviews, and keynote speeches.

“I spend a lot of time doing emails and sometimes late into the night,” Fauci said at Journal’s Tech Health event.

“A lot of the emails are people that really do need to get some feedback from you,” Fauci said. He sends most of his emails from his desktop computer, or “my iPhone when I’m moving around,” he said.

The 80-year-old said he feels like he can’t delete his emails because of his role as a medical expert during a global pandemic.

“People tell me that, ‘why don’t you just wipe the screen clean?'” he said. “You can’t do that. You just can’t.”

In one of the emails that Fauci received, a US health official told him that “doggie cones” could be used as personal protective equipment (PPE), per The Post. Fauci replied with a polite thank you.

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Fauci warns that the Delta coronavirus variant, first found in India, could take over in the US if people don’t get their shots

fauci gets his first vaccine
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gives a thumbs up after receiving his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health on December 22, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Dr. Fauci said Tuesday that the highly infectious Delta variant, first found in India, could take over in the US.
  • In the UK the Delta variant is dominant. “We cannot let that happen in the United States,” he said.
  • Fauci said getting two doses of COVID-19 vaccine would stop the Delta variant from spreading.
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The highly infectious Delta variant first identified in India could become the dominant strain in the US if people don’t get fully vaccinated, the US’s top doctor has warned.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, said Tuesday that in the UK, the Delta variant had rapidly emerged as the dominant variant, replacing the Alpha variant.

“We cannot let that happen in the United States,” Fauci said during a White House press briefing.

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: ‘The possibilities are endless’

The Delta variant is thought to have caused record-breaking infection numbers in India, pushing its health system to near-collapse.

The Delta variant accounts for more than 6% of sequenced tests in the US and 60% of infections in the UK, Fauci said. The actual figures could be higher, as not every test is sequenced. The highest rates of transmission in the UK are people aged between 12 and 22, he said.

Fauci urged Americans to get vaccinated to stop the Delta variant spreading across the country.

“Particularly if you had that first dose, make sure you get that second dose. If not, please get vaccinated,” Fauci said in the briefing.

The Alpha variant, first identified in the UK, is currently the most common virus strain in the US.

The Delta variant is at least as infectious as the Alpha variant, and has now spread to more than 60 countries. It also has extra mutations that means it may escape the antibody response, so vaccines offer less protection against it when just one dose is given.

A UK-based study posted on May 24 found that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was 88% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 caused by the Delta variant after two doses, but 33% effective after a single dose.

Another lab-based study from the UK posted Thursday found that the antibody response, a part of the immune system that fights the virus, was “significantly lower” against the Delta variant compared to the Alpha variant after one dose.

The Biden Administration is trying to give more than 75% of the US population at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4 to try to stop another surge in infections. So far, more than 51% of Americans have had at least one dose, and more than 42% are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Who’s afraid of Naomi Wolf?

Naomi Wolf
Naomi Wolf, photographed at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2019.

  • The best-selling author and one-time Democratic Party insider has aligned herself with figures from the political far right.
  • At rallies for her ‘Five Freedoms’ campaign, Wolf has railed against vaccine passports, mandatory masks, and emergency laws.
  • The academic scandal over her latest book Outrages: Sex, Censorship & The Criminalization of Love undermined her literary reputation, while raising serious questions about publishing ethics.
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Many old friends and admirers of Naomi Wolf are horrified. The great figurehead of 1990s “third wave” feminism, who bestrode the highest pinnacles of literature and politics to become an inspiration to a generation of young women, has morphed into something other than the Naomi they thought they knew.

Wolf was the author of The Beauty Myth, a classic text that seemed to define the dichotomies of late 20th Century womanhood, and which became the first of her eight New York Times best-sellers. The book’s global popularity was enhanced by the dazzle of the author’s own persona as a product of Yale and Oxford who seemed to feel the pain of other women, in spite of her own obvious privileges.

With her apparently impeccable Democratic credentials she stood at the shoulders of Bill Clinton and Al Gore during their respective presidential campaigns, imparting her counsel as a trusted adviser. It was a time when great significance was discerned by many in every word that Wolf wrote or uttered. “The Beauty Myth was a really big deal and it was really smart, it did land her a lot of fame and a lot of plaudits” says Rosie Boycott, feminist pioneer, member of Britain’s House of Lords and co-founder of Virago, Wolf’s publisher. “She was clever and a good speaker and very competent and she rode a big wave.”

As a public intellectual, Wolf was never far from the drama or the headlines, whether writing in 2004 that Harold Bloom, the famous literary critic and her college professor at Yale, had made unwanted sexual advances on her 21 years earlier, or getting arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest in 2011 while dressed in an evening gown. (She happened upon the protesters while exiting a red-carpet event, she later wrote, and was advising them about their First Amendment right to use a megaphone.)

But lately a very different Naomi Wolf has emerged in the wake of an embarrassing academic scandal that has undermined her literary reputation, while raising serious questions about publishing ethics and doctoral examinations. A few weeks ago, she posted video of herself in the firing position, pumping out bullets from a powerful weapon as she underwent firearms training deep in the woods. “Naomi you need help. This is too weird, ” responded Katha Pollitt, the New York columnist and author.

Wolf arrested
Naomi Wolf was arrested during an Occupy Wall Street protest in 2011.

Pollitt is not alone in her concern. During recent weeks, as Wolf has aligned herself with figures from the political far right and turned on Joe Biden for taking America on a path to totalitarianism with his strategy for fighting Covid-19, her liberal allies have been aghast. “I daily get texts from friends and former friends telling me to ‘stop’. One just messaged ‘you’re doing incalculable harm.'” she complained on Twitter, where she bombards her 142k followers with messages about vaccine side-effects, the profits of big pharma and the negative impact of masks on children. Benjamin Ramm, a liberal thinker and documentary maker, was an admirer of Wolf and thrilled when she endorsed as “timely and valuable” his 2011 paper Citizens: A Manifesto. He laments her current outlook as “very sad”, saying “I’ve seen her wade deeper into a conspiracist whirlpool.” (Wolf did not respond to Insider’s interview request or a list of questions. As of Saturday, her Twitter account had been suspended.)

When Wolf was invited onto Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News in February, he could barely conceal his delight at the unexpected guest before him. Noting that she was a “faithful lifelong Democrat”, he said she was “undoubtedly losing friends by being on this show tonight.”

Her political transformation reached a new apogee in May when she enjoyed a love-in with former Donald Trump strategist Steve Bannon on his WarRoom podcast. “I appreciate your help,” she told the field marshal of the American right, as she thanked his followers for the “support and help and resources” they are giving to her ‘Five Freedoms’ campaign against vaccine passports, mandatory masks and emergency laws. Bannon, in turn, lauded her efforts and promised “we are going to have you back on.”

Wolf has taken her protests across America, from Maine to Oregon, where she identified “a fascistic atmosphere” and compared Covid rules to Jim Crow laws.

“I find her transition horrifying,” says Boycott, a founding editor of ground-breaking feminist magazine Spare Rib and former editor of British Esquire and several national newspapers. “The moment she lost her grip on the intelligentsia because of a lazy error she had to find a new world to fit into where facts don’t matter and that’s the world she has gone to. Of course, she would become a superstar within it.”

That “lazy error” stems from Wolf’s University of Oxford thesis, which in 2015 fulfilled her dreams of holding a doctorate. The 495-page document was finally made public last month. It came with an embarrassing attachment: over nine pages and arranged in 63 bullet points, it set out 93 corrections and clarifications, from simple typos to serious howlers. This extended erratum slip was all the more remarkable for having been submitted by the internationally-famous author in 2020, five years after examiners had passed her work, granting her the right to use the prefix ‘Dr.’

Furthermore, the DPhil, an exploration of the laws on homosexuality in 19th Century Britain and the life of Victorian poet John Addington Symonds, was the basis for Outrages: Sex, Censorship & The Criminalization of Love, Wolf’s latest book. (The release of the thesis was held up until the book’s publication, a common practice in academic publishing.)

So flawed was some of the scholarship behind Outrages, that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the book’s original American publisher, pulped it.

At some universities, the book has become a case study in how not to do historical research. Dr Robin Mitchell, associate professor of history at California State University Channel Islands and an author on 19th century history, said her students were transfixed by Wolf’s mistakes. “They were terrified of making an error that consequential. I felt like they got the responsibility to getting it right more than she did.”

Dr Matt Lodder, senior lecturer in art history, uses Wolf’s book in his “Introduction to Academic Writing and Research” course at the University of Essex. “She didn’t read her sources properly, she failed to properly interrogate the existing literature, and she only sought evidence for a predetermined conclusion, rather than trying hard to disprove her hypothesis,” he says. “The very idea that a published book can be ‘wrong’ is really quite a novel idea to young undergraduates, and Wolf’s book provides such a perfect, distilled encapsulation of that.”

Things began to unravel for Wolf in 2019 when she was interviewed about Outrages by Dr Matthew Sweet, a presenter on the BBC radio show Free Thinking. The exchange, in Studio 8A at the top of the BBC’s Broadcasting House in London, is excruciating. Wolf said she “found several dozen executions” of gay men extending into the late 19th century, claiming “this corrects a misapprehension…that the last man was executed for sodomy in Britain in 1835.” Sweet, who also holds a doctorate from Oxford, told her: “I don’t think you are right about this.”

He pointed out that “death recorded,” which Wolf had interpreted as an execution, was a term reflecting a crime punishable by death that was commuted to a custodial sentence. He referred Wolf to digitally-archived contemporary newspaper accounts of cases mentioned in her book.

Sweet says his discovery of the errors “took an hour on the Internet” scrolling on his laptop from his sofa. He thinks they should have been spotted not just by the author but by those who read her book manuscript and examined her DPhil.

On the radio Wolf came off as contrite and embarrassed. But afterwards she quickly shifted to accusing Sweet and her critics of trying “to whitewash LGBTQ+ history”.

Baroness Helena Kennedy, a human rights lawyer who fact-checked Outrages, admitted that she too had misunderstood “death recorded,’ but that the sentence still amounted to a “sword of Damocles” over the head of those convicted. The controversy was “a rather nasty British display of tall poppy syndrome,” she suspected. “I am sure there is a high level of sexism in the mix, with a dismissal of female scholarship, and a territorial claim to certain kinds of subject matter.” It was all just an “academic brouhaha,” Kennedy said.

But the whole thing erupted again early this year after Virago, Dr Wolf’s British publisher, released the paperback edition with only minimal correction.

“I’ve never been so angry about a book,” said Dr Fern Riddell, a specialist on the Victorian era and its attitudes to sex, in a 31-tweet thread on the book’s errors and troubling omissions. “I know from experience the paperback is when you put your errors right. She hasn’t,” Riddell says. “Her indifference to these stories, the misleading of her readers, and her decision to commit historical fraud are some of the most disgusting and egregious actions I have ever witnessed another author willfully commit.”

Virago says that it is “satisfied that Naomi Wolf had her book checked by scholars of the period.”

The Outrages case raises questions over publishing ethics and whether Britain’s doctoral examination system should be reappraised. “Given that the claims she was making in the doctorate were radically at odds with a well-known and established literature on 19th Century homosexuality, then it should have been absolutely interrogated very closely,” says Tim Hitchcock, professor of digital history at the University of Sussex, whose Old Bailey Online archive was misunderstood by Dr Wolf.

In a statement, Oxford said: “A thesis is a product of its time, and factual matters arising after its publication can be addressed separately by its author attaching clarifications or in further works.”


That Wolf completed the thesis at all was a surprise, even to her. A Yale graduate, she arrived at Oxford in 1985 as a Rhodes scholar and describes it as “the place that radicalised me”. Her experiences of “an encrusted, smug, disdainful, contemptuous, and inward-looking institution” helped to inspire The Beauty Myth. Raised in San Francisco in a liberal and scholarly family, she wanted to emulate her grandmother, a professor of sociology, and gain a doctorate. But her adviser told her it would be “difficult to defend” her angry and polemical writing before Oxford’s examiners, and so she “left in a rage” and turned the thesis into an international bestseller.

Then, in middle age and as a celebrity writer, she found herself back in the City of Dreaming Spires and riding her bicycle through its hallowed streets, having been invited to complete the DPhil that she failed to complete a quarter of a century earlier. Her thesis, “Ecstasy or Justice? The Sexual Author and The Law, 1855-1885,” was examined, passed and placed for posterity in Oxford’s historic Bodleian libraries.

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Naomi Wolf and Alec Baldwin attend the premiere of “The End of America,” a documentary adapted from Wolf’s book of the same name, at the Hamptons International Film Festival in 2008.

Some feminist writers who have followed Dr Wolf’s career say her misuse of data is nothing new. “Belatedly people are asking questions that should have been asked a very long time ago,” says Joan Smith, whose book Misogynies came out around the same time as The Beauty Myth. She remembers confronting Wolf at a TV studio over The Beauty Myth’s use of statistics on deaths from anorexia. “She said she spoke to a doctor…who ran a clinic which was largely for patients with eating disorders and he told her what percentage of his patients had eating disorders and she applied that to the entire population of the UK. I thought it was complete nonsense.” Wolf’s misuse of statistics became the subject of a paper in Eating Disorders, an academic journal.

Wolf’s next book, she says, will be called Step Ten, based on her contention that America is on the brink of fascism, as a result of responses to Covid. “A much-hyped medical crisis,” she claims, “has taken on the role of being used as a pretext to strip us all of core freedoms.” It is a sequel to a dystopian book Wolf wrote in 2008, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, in which she examined 20th Century dictatorships and what brought them about.

But back then, her focus was on the hidden intent behind post-Sept. 11 anti-terror laws and it was Republicans who worried her. In a piece promoting the book, headlined “Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps”, she wrote: “It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George [W.] Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society.”

Wolf’s taste for conspiracy theories is longstanding. She has suggested that Edward Snowden was a government plant, questioned the veracity of ISIS videos showing the beheadings of kidnapped Westerners, and posited that the Scottish independence referendum was rigged. She detected a secret agenda in the decision to send American troops to Liberia to coordinate the international response to the Ebola epidemic. It gave the disease a “direct vector into the U.S.”, she claimed online.

More recently she has subscribed to conspiracy theories on the dangers of 5G. “Since November I’ve been noticing weird things happening in the clouds and also been noticing some strange group consciousness in Manhattan,” she observed in a YouTube video on the supposed “huge health hazard” resulting from 5G rollout. She compared Covid adviser Anthony Fauci to “Satan,” described vaccine champion Bill Gates as “a monster capable of mass experiments on humans” and claimed that children wearing face masks are losing the ability to smile. “I’m seeing kids with their lower faces hanging inertly, absolutely unmoving facial muscles, when they take their masks off,” she tweeted.

When she recently complained that “progressive” friends were trying to “shame/bully me for talking to conservatives about liberty,” Wolf argued: “How can I stop doing what I’ve always done?”

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