Naomi Wolf ac­cuses An­gus Tay­lor of 'an­ti­semitic dog­whis­tle' and false claim about Ox­ford Univer­sity

The Guardian Australia - - Front Page - Naa­man Zhou

The Amer­i­can au­thor Naomi Wolf has ac­cused Aus­tralia’s em­bat­tled en­ergy min­is­ter, An­gus Tay­lor, of an “an­ti­semitic dog­whis­tle”, and of falsely claim­ing they were at Ox­ford Univer­sity to­gether.

In his maiden speech to par­lia­ment in 2013, Tay­lor told a story about “po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness” and a dis­pute over a Christ­mas tree at Ox­ford in 1991, when he was a Rhodes scholar at the univer­sity, men­tion­ing that Wolf lived on the same cor­ri­dor.

“I first en­coun­tered po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness as a stu­dent at Ox­ford,” Tay­lor said. “It was 1991, and a young Naomi Wolf lived a cou­ple of doors down the cor­ri­dor. Sev­eral grad­u­ate stu­dents, mostly from the north-east of the US, de­cided we should aban­don the Christ­mas tree in the com­mon room be­cause some peo­ple might be of­fended.

“My friends from Ok­la­homa, Alaska and Ore­gon ex­plained this new kind of moral van­ity that was tak­ing hold in Amer­ica. A few of us pushed back hard. In the end we won, be­cause we were main­stream … [Our rights] are be­ing chipped away by shrill elit­ist voices who in­sist that they know what is best for peo­ple who are not re­motely like them.”

But on Mon­day, af­ter a sec­tion of the speech was shared on­line, Wolf said she was not at Ox­ford in 1991. She said she “loves Christ­mas” and ac­cused Tay­lor of an­ti­semitic dog-whistling.

“I was a Rhodes Scholar in Ox­ford 1985-88,” Wolf said. “An­gus Tay­lor re­calls me in a fever dream at Ox­ford in 1991 among those war­ring on Xmas. I was in NYC. Plus I love Christ­mas, Han­nukah, Kwan­zaa. Flat­tered to be on this mytho­log­i­cal hate list.”

In a fol­low-up tweet, the au­thor high­lighted Tay­lor’s ref­er­ence to “elites”.

“Catch that anti-Semitic dog­whis­tle – elit­ist peo­ple ‘who know what’s best for peo­ple who are not re­motely like them.’ Re­fer­ring to Jews like me whom An­gus Tay­lor imag­ined to be among the war­riors against xmas in Ox­ford in 1991.”

Wolf’s first book, The Beauty Myth, was pub­lished in 1990, and she said she was “long back in the US” by 1991.

A spokesman for Tay­lor said the min­is­ter did not say that Wolf was one of the grad­u­ates who had ar­gued about the Christ­mas tree and was not re­fer­ring to Wolf as one of the grad­u­ates.

He also said Tay­lor “re­jects any as­ser­tion he is anti-Semitic”.

“In fact, his own grand­mother was Jewish,” the spokesman said.

The story about Wolf was re­peated in em­bel­lished form in a 2014 pro­file of Tay­lor in the Aus­tralian Fi­nan­cial Re­view, and re­mains un­cor­rected.

“Tay­lor was awarded a Rhodes schol­ar­ship and went to Ox­ford Univer­sity, where left-wing writer Naomi Wolf lived a few doors away,” the AFR said. “When she pro­posed ban­ning the tra­di­tional Christ­mas tree, Tay­lor, a Chris­tian, led a suc­cess­ful counter re­bel­lion.”

Tay­lor is cur­rently the subject of a New South Wales po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter his of­fice re­lied on a doc­tored doc­u­ment to launch a po­lit­i­cal at­tack on Syd­ney mayor Clover Moore.

In June, Wolf’s lat­est book re­lease was can­celled in the US and fu­ture ver­sions cor­rected in the UK af­ter she ad­mit­ted live on air that it con­tained at least two er­rors.

In an in­ter­view on BBC Ra­dio 3, broad­caster Matthew Sweet pointed out that Wolf had mis­un­der­stood the his­tor­i­cal term “death recorded” while writ­ing her book Out­rages.

While Wolf be­lieved it meant an ex­e­cu­tion, Sweet said it was a term that al­lowed judges to record a death without car­ry­ing out an ex­e­cu­tion.

Wolf has said she was thank­ful for the cor­rec­tion, that it only af­fected two pages and did not af­fect the the­sis of the book.

Com­pos­ite: Mick Tsikas/David Leven­son/AAP/Getty Images

An­gus Tay­lor and Naomi Wolf. The Aus­tralian en­ergy min­is­ter and US au­thor have be­come em­broiled in a con­tro­versy over his claims about a dis­pute over a Christ­mas tree at Ox­ford Univer­sity in 1991.

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