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