Nina Burleigh

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Nina Burleigh
Nina Burleigh photo.jpg
Born 1959/1960
Chicago, Illinois
Education Masters in English (1987)
Alma mater University of Chicago
Occupation Author, journalist, adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia University
Spouse(s) Erik Freeland
Children 2

Nina D. Burleigh (born 1959 or 1960)[1] is an American writer and journalist.[2] She is the author of five books, including Mirage: Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt (2007), about the scholars who accompanied Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798; Unholy Business (2008), chronicling a Biblical archaeological forgery case and the Jerusalem relic trade; and The Fatal Gift of Beauty (2011), on the overturned conviction of American student Amanda Knox, who was tried in Italy in 2009 for the murder of Meredith Kercher. She also writes a column for The New York Observer called "The Bombshell".[3]

Early life[edit]

Born in Chicago to University of Chicago professors, Burleigh's family moved to the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco when she was seven. After a few months in San Francisco, they moved to Baghdad to live with Burleigh's maternal grandmother. Six months later the family moved to an Amish area of Michigan.[4] Her first publication was for a library in Elgin, Illinois, when she was in sixth grade.[5] "In college I thought I might go into fiction writing, but a professor of mine…suggested I could get paid as a journalism intern at the Illinois Statehouse, through a program called the Public Affairs Reporting Program. I got an internship at the Associated Press, and learned a lot about government and writing journalism there”.[4]

A fourth-generation atheist, Burleigh stated that her family had "rejected institutional religion" by the time she grew up in the 1970s. "No baptism, no family Bible recording the births, deaths and marriages. My grandfather actively despised churches." They always celebrated Christmas with Santa and a tree, which she calls "culturally Christian." When her son was a toddler, Burleigh thought it might be a good idea to expose her child to church. She picked out the most picturesque one she could find in her town and visited. She discovered that the inside was very beautiful with stained glass windows, but the programs she picked up changed her mind, they were "urging parishioners to contact their lawmakers about fetal rights, gay marriage and other favorite fundamentalist issues. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I gathered up the toddler, who was fascinated by the place and didn't want to leave, and scurried back into daylight."[6]


Burleigh covered the White House and Congress for People and Time in the 1990s.[7][8] She was a staff writer at People magazine in New York, covering human interest stories nationally in the 00s.[9] She is an adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia University, writes "The Bombshell" column for the New York Observer, and is a contributing editor to Elle. She is an occasional blogger at The Huffington Post.[10] She has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers, including Time magazine,[11] The New York Times,[12] The New Yorker,[13] and The Washington Post, as well as many websites such as,, AlterNet, Powell's[14] and[15]

Women's issues[edit]

Burleigh has written extensively on feminism, issues of human trafficking,[16] domestic violence,[17] and double standards for violence against women,[18][19] American women and power and politics.[20][21][22] She coined the term "Baby Palins” to refer to the young right wing women who decry feminism while benefiting from its gains.[23][24] She has written that "misogyny is the last allowable taboo in our PC world".[25][26] She has also written on women and health care and reproductive law[27][28] as well as the issues and complications of adoption.[29][30][31]

Middle East[edit]

Burleigh worked in and has written about the Middle East for many years, covering the politics of the Israeli settlements for Time Magazine[32] the emerging effect of Islamists on women in the wake of the Arab Spring for Slate, Daily Beast and Time, and the politics and science of Biblical archaeology in Israel for her book Unholy Business and for the Los Angeles Times.[33]


Burleigh spent several years working on a book about Biblical archaeology and forgery in Israel. The Wall Street Journal said, “Burleigh uses the story of the James Ossuary to trace the eccentric and sometimes dodgy characters who buy, trade and deal in antiquities. But it is also a springboard for her larger meditation on the field of biblical archaeology. In the 19th century, when the discipline emerged, practitioners saw themselves as both religious pilgrims and serious scholars, perceiving no potential for conflict in their desire to prove the historicity of the Bible. It has only been in recent decades that biblical archaeology truly widened its scope and began to focus not only on the Bible but on the larger world in which biblical events unfolded.”[34]

She has written and lectured on the subject of Biblical archaeology both in her book and elsewhere, speaking on the topic at the Center for Inquiry,[35] in Los Angeles,[36] Washington, D.C., and New York,[37][38] as well as at the Oriental Institute[39] in Chicago and at Duke University’s Seminar on Biblical archaeology and the media.


Burleigh has written extensively about life and travel in Italy, including Chinese immigration, mafia slave labor,[40] gelato school,[41] expatriate life in Italy and the Gothic in Italy.[42]

Bill Clinton[edit]

In a 1998 essay for Mirabella, Burleigh described noticing that, while aboard Air Force One during her time as a White House correspondent for Time magazine, President Bill Clinton found her attractive. That same year, Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post reported her as saying of Clinton: "I'd be happy to give him [oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal."[43] Burleigh herself described the quote as follows.

"When he called back, I decided my only defense would be to give him a quote that would knock his socks off. I also wanted to test the Post‘s new “sizzle”-the paper’s post-We Broke the Lewinsky Story advertising hook. So when Howard asked whether I could still objectively cover the President, having found him so attractive, I replied, “I would be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their Presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.”" [44]

Referring to the comment in a 2007 piece for The Huffington Post, Burleigh wrote, "I said it (back in 1998, but a good quote has eternal life) because I thought it was high time for someone to tweak the white, middle-aged beltway gang taking Clinton to task for sexual harassment. These men had neither the personal experience nor the credentials to know sexual harassment when they saw it, nor to give a good goddamn about it if they did. The insidious use of sexual harassment laws to bring down a president for his pro-female politics was the context in which I spoke."[45]

Personal life[edit]

Burleigh has written about her visits to Iraq, her mother's country of birth, both as a child and later in life as a journalist.[46] Her father is author Robert Burleigh.[47] She is married to Erik Freeland, a photographer. They and their two children live in New York City.[48]

Burleigh speaking at CFI DC Voices of Reason, December 14, 2008



  1. ^
  2. ^ "Nina Burleigh." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2012. Biography In Context. Web. 26 Feb. 2013.
  3. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? Why Female Critics Are Piling On". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  4. ^ a b Redmond, Sean. "Unholy Business: Chicago-bred writer Nina Burleigh discusses her latest book, religion, and the ugly side of journalism". Chicago Weekly. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  5. ^ Rees, Matt. "The Elusive, Graceful future of Journalism: Nina Burleigh's Writing Life". Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  6. ^ Burleigh, Nina (2005-12-24). "God and Christmas: Part Two". Huff Post. Retrieved 2012-09-20. 
  7. ^ "Search Results for Nina Burleigh". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2012-09-22. 
  8. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "Her Own Woman". People Magazine. Retrieved 2012-09-22. 
  9. ^ Nina Burleigh - Nina Burleigh Official Web Site
  10. ^ Burleigh, Nina (2012-07-19). "The American Intelligence of Michele Bachmann". Huff Post. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  11. ^ Time Magazine - Article archive
  12. ^ "Nina Burleigh Search". New York Times (New York Times). 
  13. ^ "Whistle-Blower". New Yorker. The New Yorker. 
  14. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "Scholars in the Land of the Prophet". Powells. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  15. ^ "Israel’s huge reward". Salon. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  16. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "With Piggy-Loving Madam Cooling Her Heels in Rikers, Will Her Clients Get Off? Ray Kelly's Operation Losing Proposition targets johns.". New York Observer. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  17. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "A Hate Crime Against Women?". TIME. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  18. ^ Burleigh, Nina (2009-09-29). "Genius and Young Flesh". Huff Post. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  19. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "A High School Student's Nightmare: Dating Violence". People Weekly. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  20. ^ Burleigh, Nina (2011-06-07). "What If Weiner Was a Woman?". Huff Post. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  21. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "The Best and the Rightest". Elle. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  22. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "Ink-Stained Wretch Dept., Profile of Jill Abramson". More. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  23. ^ Santos, Alexander. "'Baby Palins' Do Not Like Being Called 'Baby Palins'". National Journal. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  24. ^ Santos, Alexander. "Baby Palins' Do Not Like Being Called 'Baby Palins'". The Atlantic Wire. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  25. ^ Burleigh, Nina (2011-04-08). "The Last Allowable Taboo". Huff Post. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  26. ^ Burleigh, Nina (2007-04-10). "Don Imus and the Rage of the Viagrans". Huff Post. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  27. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "Who Owns Your DNA?". More. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  28. ^ "In Dixie, Civil Rights for Zygotes". TIME. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  29. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "The Race to Find Myself". Elle. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  30. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "A Dad's Adoption Nightmare". People. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  31. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "I'm Not What's Best for my Baby". Elle. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  32. ^ "Israeli Settlers Versus the Palestinians". Time,. 2009-07-27. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  33. ^ Burleigh, Nina (2012-03-25). "Faith, forgery, science -- and the James Ossuary". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  34. ^ Marcus, Amy Dockser. "Ancient Objects, Dubious Claims 'James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus': The inscription caused a sensation. It was also new.". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  35. ^ "Voices of Reason - Author Nina Burleigh: Unholy Business". Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  36. ^ "Biblical Archaeology, the Limits of Science and the Borders of Belief". Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  37. ^ "Meet the Author: Nina Burleigh". Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  38. ^ "Calendar of Program & Events". The Explorer's Club. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  39. ^ "Talking Forgery at the Oriental Institute". Oriental Institute. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  40. ^ Burleigh, Nina (2010-01-15). "African Immigrants in Italy: Slave Labor for the Mafia,8599,1953619,00.html#ixzz26bsJJjz2". TIME. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  41. ^ Burleigh, Nina (2009-11-09). "Gelato U.". TIME. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  42. ^ Burleigh, Nina (2011-01-29). "In Berlusconi's Italy, sex, politics and Snooki". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  43. ^ Kurtz, Howard. "A Reporter with Lust in her Hearts", The Washington Post, July 6, 1998.
  44. ^ Burleigh, Nina.[1], New York Observer, July 20, 1998.
  45. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "Watching the Clintons for Love and Money in D.C.", The Huffington Post, December 1, 2007.
  46. ^ Burleigh, Nina. "Scholars in the Land of the Prophet". Powell's Books. Retrieved May 27, 2011. 
  47. ^ Robert, Burleigh. "Robert Burleigh". 
  48. ^ "About the Author". Retrieved May 27, 2011. 
  49. ^ "Editor's Choice". The New York Times. 16 December 2007. 
  50. ^ "Delta Gamma". Delta Kappa Gamma Society. 
  51. ^ "Oriental Institute". YouTube Burleigh Lecture. 

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