Alex Berenson

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Alex Berenson
Berenson in 2022
Berenson in 2022
BornAlex Norman Berenson
(1973-01-06) January 6, 1973 (age 51)
New York, U.S.
EducationYale University (BA)
GenreNonfiction, spy fiction
Notable awardsEdgar Award (2007)[1]
SpouseDr. Jacqueline Anne Basha
(m. 2009)[2]
Official website

Alex Norman Berenson[2] (born January 6, 1973) is an American writer who was a reporter for The New York Times, and has authored several thriller novels as well a book on corporate financial filings. His 2019 book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence sparked controversy, earning denunciations from many in the scientific and medical communities.[3][4][5][6][7]

During the coronavirus pandemic, Berenson appeared frequently in American right-wing media, spreading claims about COVID-19 and its vaccines.[8] He spent much of the pandemic arguing that its seriousness was overblown; once COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out, he made claims about the lack of safety and effectiveness of vaccines.[9][10][11][12][13]

Early life and education[edit]

Berenson was born in New York, and grew up in Englewood, New Jersey.[14] After attending the Horace Mann School, he graduated from Yale University in 1994 with bachelor's degrees in history and economics.[15]


Berenson joined The Denver Post in June 1994 as a business reporter. In August 1996, he left the Post to join TheStreet, a financial news website founded by Jim Cramer. In December 1999, Berenson joined The New York Times as a business investigative reporter.

In the fall of 2003 and the summer of 2004, Berenson covered the occupation of Iraq for the Times. He then covered the pharmaceutical and health care industries, specializing in issues concerning dangerous drugs.[16] Beginning in December 2008, Berenson reported on the Bernard Madoff $50 billion Ponzi scheme scandal.

In 2010, Berenson left the Times to become a full-time novelist. He lives in Garrison, New York,[17] with his wife Jacqueline, a forensic psychiatrist.[5]: 1[18]

He has written 12 spy novels, all featuring the same protagonist, CIA agent John Wells. His first novel, The Faithful Spy, was released in April 2006 and won an Edgar Award for best debut by an American novelist.[19] The Faithful Spy was ranked #1 on The New York Times Bestseller List for paperbacks.[20]

In 2008, Berenson released his second thriller, The Ghost War. His third novel, The Silent Man, followed in 2009. His fourth, The Midnight House, was released in 2010 and debuted at #9 on The New York Times bestseller list.[21] The fifth, The Secret Soldier, was released in 2011 and debuted at #6 on the bestseller list.[22] The sixth, The Shadow Patrol, was released in 2012, and debuted at #8.[23][24] In July 2012, The Shadow Patrol was named a finalist for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, given by Britain's Crime Writers' Association.[25][26]

Opposition to cannabis legalization[edit]

In 2019, Berenson authored the book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence, which argues that marijuana use contributes to psychotic disorders and violent crime. The book "received positive coverage from the New Yorker and Mother Jones for what some called its troubling truths"[27] but was denounced as alarmist and inaccurate in the scientific and medical communities because of his claims that cannabis causes psychosis and violence; many scientists state that he is drawing inappropriate conclusions from the research, primarily by inferring causation from correlation,[3]: 1[6]: 1[28]: 1[4]: 1[8]: 1 as well as cherry picking[5]: 1 data that fits his narrative, and falling victim to selection bias via his use of anecdotes[5]: 1 to back up his assertions.[28]: 1[4]: 1[6]: 1[29]: 1[7]

COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

Early in the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Berenson vocally argued that people and the media were overestimating the risk of the new virus, that it posed little risk to young Americans, and that it was being used as a cover for government overreach.[8][30] Many public health experts have rejected his claims.[8][30]: 1

In May 2020, Fox News announced that Berenson would host a TV show called COVID Contrarian on its online streaming platform Fox Nation. However, by July 2020, amid surges in coronavirus cases across parts of the United States, Fox News appeared to have backtracked and removed the announcement of his show from its website.[31]

In 2021, Berenson tweeted that COVID-19 vaccinations had led to 50 times more adverse effects than flu vaccine. PolitiFact rated the claim "mostly false".[12] The Atlantic called him "The pandemic's wrongest man", owing to his false claims of the vaccine's ineffectiveness.[10]

On January 25, 2022, Berenson appeared on the Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight declaring that existing mRNA vaccines are "dangerous and ineffective" against COVID-19, and further demanding that they be withdrawn from the market immediately.[32] The Washington Post's Philip Bump denounced Carlson for "inviting Berenson on, despite his proven track record of misinformation and cherry-picking" and observed that "Berenson's claims went unchallenged."[33]

Twitter suspension and reinstatement[edit]

On August 28, 2021, Twitter permanently suspended Berenson for repeated violations of its policy on COVID-19 misinformation, but after Berenson filed suit in December 2021 demanding reinstatement, Twitter reinstated Berenson's account in early summer 2022, in a "mutually acceptable resolution".[34][35] This reinstatement was referred to as "significant" by The Atlantic, given that most social-media-banned people fail to win their court cases.[35]

Berenson did not regain Twitter access because of a First-Amendment free speech claim, which was rejected by the judge.[35] Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, theorizes that Twitter settled because of documentation of promises made to Berenson by a high-level Twitter employee concerning the nature of his tweets.[35] Goldman stated that Internet company executives have always been advised by their attorneys not to make promises to or even to speak to anyone about their individual accounts "for reasons that should now be obvious".[35]



John Wells series

No. Title Publisher Date Genre ISBN
1The Faithful SpyRandom HouseApril 25, 2006Spy fiction978-0-345-47899-3
2The Ghost WarPutnamFebruary 12, 2008Spy fiction978-0-399-15453-9
3The Silent ManPutnamFebruary 10, 2009Spy fiction978-0-399-15538-3
4The Midnight HousePutnamFebruary 10, 2010Spy fiction978-0-399-15620-5
5The Secret SoldierPutnamFebruary 8, 2011Spy fiction978-0-399-15708-0
6The Shadow PatrolPutnamFebruary 21, 2012Spy fiction978-0-399-15829-2
7The Night RangerPutnamFebruary 12, 2013Spy fiction978-0-399-15972-5
8The Counterfeit AgentPutnamFebruary 11, 2014Spy fiction978-0-399-15973-2
9Twelve DaysPutnamFebruary 10, 2015Spy fiction978-0-399-15974-9
10The WolvesPutnamFebruary 9, 2016Spy fiction978-0-399-17614-2
11The PrisonerPutnamJanuary 31, 2017Spy fiction978-0-399-17615-9
12The DeceiversPutnamFebruary 6, 2018Spy fiction978-0-698-40753-4

The Power Couple February 9, 2021 Mystery, Thriller Simon & Schuster




  1. ^ a b "The Edgars 2007 - Best First Novel By An American Author". The Edgars 2007. Mystery Writers of America. Archived from the original on 2010-03-12. Retrieved 2010-09-12.
  2. ^ a b "Jacqueline Basha, Alex Berenson". The New York Times. 2009-05-09. Retrieved 2022-06-24.
  3. ^ a b Lewis, Amanda (2019-01-12). "Is Alex Berenson Trolling Us With His Anti-Weed Book? - A former 'New York Times' journalist wrote about a "hidden epidemic" cause by pot — but it seems he got the science wrong". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2019-01-23. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  4. ^ a b c Lartey, Jamiles (2019-02-17). "Popular book on marijuana's apparent dangers is pure alarmism, experts say - Doctors and scientists criticize 'flawed pop science' of Tell Your Children – but author Alex Berenson stands by his claims". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2019-02-23. Retrieved 2019-04-22.
  5. ^ a b c d Way, Katie (2019-01-28). "What Fearmongering About Pot Tells You About Mainstream Marijuana Coverage - Alex Berenson's Tell Your Children relies on hyperbole and paranoia to argue against legalization". The Nation. Archived from the original on 2019-02-03. Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  6. ^ a b c Hart, Carl; Ksir, Charles (2019-01-20). "Does marijuana use really cause psychotic disorders? - Alex Berenson says the drug causes 'sharp increases in murders and aggravated assaults'. As scientists, we find his claims misinformed and reckless". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2019-02-01. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
  7. ^ a b Lopez, German (2019-01-14). "What Alex Berenson's new book gets wrong about marijuana, psychosis, and violence - The book, Tell Your Children, has received a lot of media attention, but it's essentially Reefer Madness 2.0". Vox. Archived from the original on 2019-02-04. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  8. ^ a b c d Ecarma, Caleb (2020-04-10). "An Ex-New York Times Reporter Has Become the Right's Go-To Coronavirus Skeptic - Alex Berenson, a journalist and thriller writer, is being quoted on Breitbart and appearing on Fox News—even going too far for Sean Hannity". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 2020-04-11. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  9. ^ Grynbaum, Michael M.; Hsu, Tiffany; Kanno-Youngs, Zolan (2021-07-20). "On Fox News, Vaccination Pleas Intensify, but Skepticism Persists". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  10. ^ a b Thompson, Derek (2021-04-01). "The Pandemic's Wrongest Man". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2021-04-01.
  11. ^ "PolitiFact - CDC says more young people hospitalized from vaccine than COVID-19 itself? False". @politifact. Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  12. ^ a b "PolitiFact - A claim comparing adverse events for COVID-19, flu vaccines exaggerates raw data". @politifact. Retrieved 2021-07-17.
  13. ^ "Fact Check | The CDC did not say fewer young people are hospitalized from COVID-19 than from vaccinations". Reuters. 2021-07-09. Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  14. ^ "Alex Berenson Biography". Archived from the original on 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2010-09-12.
  15. ^ Freedlander, David. "Does the King of the COVID-19 Contrarians Have a Case? Alex Berenson, thriller writer, former Timesman, and marijuana alarmist, thinks scientists, politicians, and the media are fueling coronavirus hysteria. Some scientists think he's dead wrong. 'He should go back to school to learn some science,' says one.", Vanity Fair, April 16, 2020. Accessed August 31, 2021. "Berenson's upbringing seems tailor-made for the media elite, growing up in Englewood, New Jersey, and attending Horace Mann and then Yale, where he graduated in 1994."
  16. ^ Berenson, Alex. "Alex Berenson - The New York Times". Archived from the original on 2010-10-04. Retrieved 2010-09-12.
  17. ^ Boster, Seth (2019-03-19). "Anti-marijuana author to visit Colorado Springs, share findings". The Gazette. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  18. ^ Rowe, Chip (2014-02-16). "Living the Spy Life". The Highlands Current. Retrieved 2021-09-01.
  19. ^ "The Faithful Spy". NPR. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  20. ^ "Alex Berenson". The Daily Beast. 2014-02-12. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  21. ^ "Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. 2010-02-28. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  22. ^ "Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. 2011-02-27. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  23. ^ "Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. 2012-03-11. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  24. ^ Tixier Herald, Diana; Stavole-Carter, Samuel (2019). Genreflecting: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (8th ed.). ABC-CLIO. p. 206. ISBN 9781440858482.
  25. ^ "Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award nominees announced". 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  26. ^ "The Shadow Patrol". The Crime Writers' Association. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  27. ^ The return of ‘reefer madness’ - Washington Post. 16 April 2019
  28. ^ a b Multiple Signatories (2019-02-14). "Letter from Scholars and Clinicians who Oppose Junk Science about Marijuana". Drug Policy Alliance. Archived from the original on 2019-04-17. Retrieved 2019-04-22.
  29. ^ Dufton, Emily; Richert, Lucas (2019-04-16). "The return of 'reefer madness'". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2019-04-17. Retrieved 2019-05-02.
  30. ^ a b Freedlander, David (2020-04-16). "Does the King of the COVID-19 Contrarians Have a Case?". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  31. ^ "As coronavirus surges, Fox News shifts its message on masks". 2020-07-02. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
  32. ^ Ramírez, Nikki (2022-01-25). "Alex Berenson tells Fox viewers: "The mRNA COVID vaccines need to be withdrawn from the market. No one should get them. No one should get boosted. No one should get double boosted. They are a dangerous and ineffective product at this point."". Media Matters for America. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  33. ^ Bump, Philip (2022-01-26). "Tucker Carlson airs his most dishonest and dangerous pandemic segment yet". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2022-01-27.
  34. ^ Bolies, Corbin (2021-08-29). "COVID Truther Alex Berenson Finally Banned From Twitter". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  35. ^ a b c d e Tiffany, Kaitlyn (2022-08-24). "A Prominent Vaccine Skeptic Returns to Twitter". The Atlantic. Berenson's victory was not based on his argument that his ban was a violation of the First Amendment; the judge rejected this claim. Instead, his success seems to have hinged on promises made to him by a high-level Twitter employee. "The points you're raising should not be an issue at all," the company's then–vice president of global communications assured Berenson at one point, according to the complaint. The lawsuit says the same executive later told Berenson that his name had "never come up in the discussions" about Twitter's COVID-19 misinformation policies. Goldman believes that the court's decision to allow a claim based on that correspondence prompted Twitter to settle. Internet-service executives have always been instructed by lawyers not to talk with people about their individual accounts and not to make any promises about what might happen, Goldman said, "for reasons that should now be obvious".

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