Bret Stephens

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bret Stephens
Stephens in 2015
Bret Louis Stephens

(1973-11-21) November 21, 1973 (age 50)
Alma mater
  • Political commentator
  • columnist
  • editor
Years active1995–present
(m. 1998, divorced)
  • Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim

Bret Louis Stephens (born November 21, 1973) is an American conservative[1][2] journalist, editor, and columnist. He has been an opinion columnist for The New York Times and a senior contributor to NBC News since 2017. Since 2021, he has been the inaugural editor-in-chief of SAPIR: A Journal of Jewish Conversations.

Stephens was previously a foreign affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor at The Wall Street Journal, overseeing the editorial pages of its European and Asian editions. At the Wall Street Journal, Stephens won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2013.

From 2002 to 2004, he was editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.

Stephens is known for his neoconservative foreign policy opinions and for being part of the right-of-center opposition to Donald Trump.


Stephens was born in New York City,[3] the son of Xenia and Charles J. Stephens, a former vice president of General Products, a chemical company in Mexico.[4][5] Both his parents were secular Jews. His mother was born in Italy at the start of World War II to Jewish parents who had fled Nazi Germany.[6] His paternal grandfather, Louis Ehrlich, was born in 1901 in Kishinev (today Chișinău, Moldova). He fled with his family to New York after the Kishinev pogrom and changed the family surname to Stephens (after poet James Stephens).[7] Louis Stephens moved to Mexico City, where he founded General Products and built his fortune.[8] He married Annette Margolis and had two sons, Charles and Luis. Charles married Xenia. They moved to Mexico City with their newborn son, Bret, to help run the chemical company, inherited from Louis.[8] Bret was raised there and is fluent in Spanish.[9] As a teenager, he attended boarding school at Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts.

Stephens earned an undergraduate degree in political philosophy from the University of Chicago. He then earned a master's degree in comparative politics[10] at the London School of Economics.

He is married to Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, a New York Times music critic. They have three children, and live in New York City.[11][12] He was previously married to Pamela Paul, the former editor of The New York Times Book Review.[5]

Journalism career[edit]

Stephens in 2008

Stephens began his career as an assistant editor at Commentary magazine in 1995–96.[13]

In 1998 he joined The Wall Street Journal as an op-ed editor.[14] He later worked as an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe, in Brussels.[15] Stephens edited the weekly "State of the Union" column on the European Union.[16][citation needed]

In 2002, Stephens moved to Israel to become the editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.[17] He was 28 years old. Haaretz reported at the time that the appointment of Stephens, a non-Israeli, triggered some unease among senior Jerusalem Post management and staff.[16] Stephens said that one of the reasons he left The Wall Street Journal for The Jerusalem Post was that he believed that Western media was getting Israel's story wrong.[17] "I do not think Israel is the aggressor here", he said. "Insofar as getting the story right helps Israel, I guess you could say I'm trying to help Israel."[17] Stephens led The Jerusalem Post during the worst years of the Palestinian campaign of suicide bombings against Israel and pointed the paper in a more neoconservative direction.[17]

Stephens left The Jerusalem Post in 2004 and returned to The Wall Street Journal.[18] In 2006, he took over the Journal's "Global View" column.

In 2017, Stephens left the Journal, joined The New York Times as an opinion columnist,[19] and began appearing as an on-air contributor to NBC News and MSNBC.[20]

In 2021, Stephens became editor-in-chief of SAPIR: A Journal of Jewish Conversations, published by Maimonides Fund.[21]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2005, the World Economic Forum named Stephens a Young Global Leader.[15] He won the 2008 Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism.[22] In 2009, he was named deputy editorial page editor after Melanie Kirkpatrick's retirement. In 2010, Stephens won the Reason Foundation's Bastiat Prize.[15]

Stephens won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for "his incisive columns on American foreign policy and domestic politics, often enlivened by a contrarian twist."[23][24] He is a national judge of the Livingston Award.[25][26] In 2015, Stephens joined the Real-Time Academy of Short Form Arts & Sciences.[27] The Real-Time Academy judges contestants for the Shorty Awards, which honor the best individuals and organizations on social media.[28]

Stephens has chaired two Pulitzer juries.[26] In 2016, he chaired the one that awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting to Alyssa Rubin of The New York Times.[29] In 2017, Stephens chaired the jury that awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing to Art Cullen of The Storm Lake Times.[30]

Stephens spoke at the University of Chicago's 2023 Class Day, during convocation weekend. His invitation provoked backlash from various student groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine, for his views about Israel.[31]

Published works[edit]

Stephens's book America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder was released in November 2014.[15] In it, he argues that the US has been retreating from its role as the "world's policeman" in recent decades, which will lead to ever-greater world problems.


George Washington University[edit]

In August 2019, Stephens sent a complaint to a George Washington University (GWU) professor and the university's provost about a tweet in which the professor called Stephens a "bedbug".[32][33] The topic of Stephens's next column was the "rhetoric of infestation" used by authoritarian regimes such as Nazi Germany. The column was interpreted as criticism of the GWU professor and other critics of Stephens.[34][35][36] The controversy went viral online, leading to then-president Donald Trump tweeting, "lightweight journalist Bret Stephens, a Conservative who does anything that his bosses at the paper tell him to do! He is now quitting Twitter after being called a 'bedbug.' Tough guy!"[37][38]

Comments about antisemitism[edit]

In August 2016, The Wall Street Journal published a column by Stephens about an Egyptian judoka refusing to shake hands with his Israeli opponent after an Olympic match, in which Stephens called antisemitism "the disease of the Arab mind".[39] Some readers criticized this as a racist generalization that all Arabs were antisemitic. After Stephens joined The New York Times, several reporters at the newspaper criticized Stephens's previous writings.[40]

In a December 2019 column titled "The Secrets of Jewish Genius",[41] in which he contended that Ashkenazi Jews have superior intelligence, led to accusations of eugenics and racism. The column originally said that "Ashkenazi Jews might have a marginal advantage over their gentile peers when it comes to thinking better. Where their advantage more often lies is in thinking different."[42][43] Following widespread criticism, The New York Times editors deleted the section of the column in which he appeared to claim that Ashkenazi Jews are genetically superior to other groups.[44] The editors said that Stephens erred in citing an academic study by an author with "racist views" whose 2005 paper advanced a genetic hypothesis for the basis of intelligence among Ashkenazi Jews.[44][45] The Times's deletion was criticized by Jonathan Haidt, Nadine Strossen, Pamela Paresky and Steven Pinker, who called it "surrender to an outrage mob".[46]

In February 2021, Stephens wrote a column critical of the Times's dismissal of Donald McNeil for using a racial slur against African Americans in the context of a discussion with students of the slur's usage. Six students present on the occasion said that McNeil had used the word "in a way that they perceived as casual, unnecessary or even gratuitous", but one of them added that "McNeil's opinions didn't disparage African Americans".[47] The Times spiked the column,[48][49] but it was leaked to the New York Post, which published it.[50] Stephens principally argued against the editor's initial position that the newspaper would "not tolerate racist language regardless of intent";[48][50] the editor subsequently backed down from that position.[48][49]

Political views[edit]

Foreign policy[edit]

Foreign policy was one of the central subjects of the columns for which Stephens won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.[24] Critics have characterized his foreign policy opinions as neoconservative, part of a right-wing political movement associated with President George W. Bush that advocates the use of military force abroad, particularly in the Middle East, as a way of promoting democracy there.[51][52] Stephens was a "prominent voice" among the media advocates for the start of the 2003 Iraq War,[51] for instance writing in a 2002 column that, unless checked, Iraq was likely to become the first nuclear power in the Arab world.[53] Although the weapons of mass destruction used as a casus belli were never shown to exist, Stephens continued to insist as late as 2013 that the Bush administration had "solid evidence" for going to war.[53] He has also argued strongly against the Iran nuclear deal and its preliminary agreements, claiming that they are a worse bargain even than the 1938 Munich Agreement with Nazi Germany.[53]

Stephens is a supporter of Israel.[54]

Global warming[edit]

Stephens is also known for his climate change contrarianism.[55][56] He has been described as a climate change denier,[2][57][58][59] but disavows that term, calling himself agnostic on the issue.[60][61]

Stephens considers climate change a "20-year-old mass hysteria phenomenon" and rejects the notion that greenhouse-gas emissions are an environmental threat. According to him, "it isn't science" and belongs in the "realm of belief" as it is a "sick-souled religion".[55] He also mocks climate change activism as hysterical alarmism,[62] denying that any significant temperature change will occur in the next 100 years[63] and arguing that it distracts from more important issues, such as terrorism.[64] Stephens claims that global warming activism is based on theological beliefs, rather than science, as an outgrowth of Western tendencies to expect punishment for sins.[55] He has also suggested that activists would be more persuasive if they were less sure of their beliefs.[57][65] Stephens's positions on this issue led to a protest in 2013 over his Pulitzer citation omitting his climate change columns,[62] and to a strong backlash against his 2017 hiring by The New York Times.[2][60][65] In reaction, The New York Times praised Stephens's "intellectual honesty and fairness".[61] As of October 28, 2022, Stephens said that he had come to accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change after a trip to Greenland with climate scientist John Englander, although he believes that markets are more effective than government at addressing the problem.[66]

Gun rights[edit]

Stephens disagrees with the mainstream conservative support for the Second Amendment and has called for its repeal, but he does not support a ban on gun ownership.[67][68]

Donald Trump[edit]

During the 2016 United States presidential election campaign, Stephens became part of the Stop Trump movement, regularly writing articles for The Wall Street Journal opposing Donald Trump's candidacy[2] and becoming "one of Trump's most outspoken conservative critics".[1] Stephens has compared Trump to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.[18] After Trump was elected, Stephens continued to oppose him: in February 2017, Stephens gave the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles, and used the platform to denounce Trump's attacks on the media.[69] His opposition to Trump continued after he moved to the Times. For instance, in 2018 he argued that by the same logic Republicans used to justify the impeachment of Bill Clinton, they should impeach Trump.[70]

Published works[edit]

  • America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder (November 2014), ISBN 978-1591846628
  • Has Obama Made the World a More Dangerous Place?: The Munk Debate on U.S. Foreign Policy (August 2015), ISBN 978-1770899964
  • The Dying Art of Disagreement (December 2017), ISBN 9780648018902


  1. ^ a b Reisman, Sam (May 29, 2016). "WSJ's Bret Stephens: Trump Must Lose So Badly That the GOP Voters 'Learn Their Lesson'". Mediaite. Stephens has been one of Trump's most outspoken conservative critics
  2. ^ a b c d "New York Times hire of conservative scribe Bret Stephens seen as move to widen readership". Fox News. April 17, 2017. While Stephens has garnered moderate praise from the left for being anti-Trump, he has written on other topics that may anger most Times readers. His views on climate change have created the strongest backlash, so far, with liberal site ThinkProgress questioning the hire on Wednesday and calling the writer is a climate science denier.
  3. ^ Bob Minzesheimer (interviewer) (January 17, 2015). "After Words with Bret Stephens". After Words. C-SPAN. 12:10 minutes in. Retrieved September 3, 2019. First of all, I was born in New York and I'm wondering why Wikipedia keeps insisting that i was born in Mexico. But I was born to a father who had been born in Mexico and had a family business there...
  4. ^ Balint, Judy Lash (January 23, 2003). "Getting To Know You". Israel Insider. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Weddings; Pamela Paul, Bret Stephens". The New York Times. September 20, 1998.
  6. ^ Stephens, Bret (October 20, 2020). "Conversations with friends: New York Times columnist Bret Stephens". YouTube (Interview). Interviewed by Tom Gross. Archived from the original on December 14, 2021. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
  7. ^ Stephens, Bret (June 26, 2009). "Being Bret Stephens -- Or Not". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  8. ^ a b Klion, David (September 24, 2019). "The Conscience of Bret Stephens". The New Republic. ISSN 0028-6583. Retrieved September 30, 2019.
  9. ^ Stephens, Bret (September 15, 2017). "Bret Stephens: Out of the Echo Chamber". YouTube (Interview). Interviewed by Bill Maher. Los Angeles: Real Time with Bill Maher. Archived from the original on December 14, 2021. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  10. ^ "Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Appoints Key Editors for Its International Editions". Global News Wire. August 12, 2009.
  11. ^ Stephens, Bret (June 26, 2009). "Being Bret Stephens – Or Not". The Wall Street Journal.
  12. ^ da Fonseca-Wollheim, Corinna (March 20, 2012). "Prelude and Fugue". Tablet: A new read on Jewish life. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013.
  13. ^ Commentary, January 1996 (Volume 101, Issue 1), Unindexed Front Matter.
  14. ^ "The Pulitzer Prizes".
  15. ^ a b c d "Bret Stephens: Deputy editor, editorial page, The Wall Street Journal". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on May 8, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Hall, Charlotte (December 24, 2001). "Jerusalem Post Names New Editor". Haaretz. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  17. ^ a b c d "Everything You Need to Know About Bret Stephens, New York Times' Newest Columnist". Haaretz. April 20, 2017. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  18. ^ a b "Everything You Need to Know About Bret Stephens, New York Times' Newest Columnist". Haaretz. Jewish TeleTA. April 20, 2017. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  19. ^ "Bret Stephens Joins NYT Opinion" (Press release). The New York Times Company. April 12, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  20. ^ Concha, Joe (June 28, 2017). "MSNBC signs conservative columnist Bret Stephens". The Hill. Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  21. ^ "About | Sapir Journal". Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  22. ^ "Bret Stephens - News, Articles, Biography, Photos -". May 8, 2017. Archived from the original on May 8, 2017. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  23. ^ "2013 Pulitzer Prizes". The Pulitzer Prizes. 2013.
  24. ^ a b "The 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Commentary". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved November 17, 2013. With short biography and reprints of ten works (WSJ articles January 24 to December 11, 2012).
  25. ^ "Judges – Wallace House". Retrieved October 3, 2019.
  26. ^ a b Kalaf, Samar (March 1, 2019). "Bret Stephens Tried to Teach Me Because I Called Him Remarkably Dumb". Splinter. Retrieved October 3, 2019.
  27. ^ "The Wall Street Journal columnist, Bret Stephens, joins the RT Academy!". Shorty Awards Blog. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  28. ^ "The Shorty Awards - Honoring the best of social media". Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  29. ^ "Alissa J. Rubin of The New York Times". The Pulitzer Prize. 2016.
  30. ^ "Art Cullen of The Storm Lake Times, Storm Lake, IA". The Pulitzer Prize. 2017.
  31. ^ Zeglis, Austin. "The Provocative, Polarizing Prose of 2023 Class Day Speaker Bret Stephens". Chicago Maroon. Retrieved April 12, 2023.
  32. ^ Elfrink, Tim; Krakow, Morgan (August 27, 2019). "A professor called Bret Stephens a 'bedbug.' The New York Times columnist complained to the professor's boss". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  33. ^ Santucci, Jeanine; Bote, Joshua (August 27, 2019). "'Call me a bedbug to my face': New York Times columnist Bret Stephens responds to professor". USA Today. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  34. ^ Knowles, Hannah (August 31, 2019). "Bret Stephens 'bedbugs' spat: Times writer's latest column links phrase to Nazi rhetoric during Holocaust". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  35. ^ Papenfuss, Mary (August 31, 2019). "Stunned Twitter Critics Swat Bret Stephens' Bedbug Link To Nazis In NYT Column". HuffPost. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  36. ^ Ho, Vivian (August 31, 2019). "Bret Stephens criticized for bedbug reference in second world war column". The Guardian. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  37. ^ "At Long Last, Trump Weighs In on Bret Stephens Bedbug Controversy". Vanity Fair. August 28, 2019.
  38. ^ "Donald J. Trump on Twitter: ""The infestation of bedbugs at the New York Times office" @OANN was perhaps brought in by lightweight journalist Bret Stephens, a Conservative who does anything that his bosses at the paper tell him to do! He is now quitting Twitter after being called a "bedbug." Tough guy!"". Archived from the original on December 18, 2020.
  39. ^ Stephens, Bret (August 15, 2016). "The Meaning of an Olympic Snub". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved August 19, 2021.
  40. ^ Bowden, John (April 26, 2017). "NYT columnist defends his 'disease of the Arab mind' comments". The Hill. Retrieved August 19, 2021.
  41. ^ Stephens, Bret (December 28, 2019). "The Secrets of Jewish Genius". The New York Times.
  42. ^ Helmore, Edward (December 28, 2019). "New York Times columnist accused of eugenics over piece on Jewish intelligence". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  43. ^ Dorman, Sam (December 28, 2019). "The New York Times' Bret Stephens faces racism accusations after penning 'Jewish genius' column". Fox News. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  44. ^ a b "NYT cuts dubious study from op-ed seemingly arguing Jewish genetic superiority". Times of Israel. December 30, 2019. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  45. ^ "The dilemma that is Times columnist Bret Stephens". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
  46. ^ Paresky, Pamela; Haidt, Jonathan; Strossen, Nadine; Pinker, Steven (May 14, 2020). "The New York Times Surrendered to an Outrage Mob. Journalism Will Suffer For It". Politico. Retrieved May 28, 2022.
  47. ^ Wemple, Eric (February 9, 2021). "What happened with New York Times reporter Donald McNeil?". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  48. ^ a b c Flood, Brian (February 11, 2021). "New York Times refuses to run Bret Stephens column critical of paper's leadership". Fox News. Retrieved June 12, 2021.
  49. ^ a b Hoonhout, Tobias (February 11, 2021). "NYT Editor Retracts Racial Slur Standard Used to Justify McNeil Ouster: 'Of Course Intent Matters'". The National Review. Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  50. ^ a b Stephens, Bret (February 11, 2021). "Read the column the New York Times didn't want you to see". New York Post. Archived from the original on February 12, 2021. Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  51. ^ a b Walt, Stephen M. (June 20, 2014). "Being a Neocon Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry". Foreign Policy.
  52. ^ Chait, Jonathan (August 22, 2016). "The Neocons Have Gone From GOP Thought-Leaders to Outcasts". New York Magazine.
  53. ^ a b c From The Iraq War To Climate Change To Sexual Assault, NY Times' New Op-Ed Columnist, Bret Stephens, Is A Serial Misinformer, Media Matters for America, April 13, 2017
  54. ^ "WSJ's Bret Stephens Weighs In On Israel, the Media & Trump". Detroit Jewish News. April 13, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  55. ^ a b c Johansen, Bruce E. (2009). The Encyclopedia of Global Warming Science and Technology. ABC-CLIO. p. 166. ISBN 9780313377020.
  56. ^ Mann, Michael E. (2013), The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, Columbia University Press, p. 70, ISBN 9780231152556
  57. ^ a b "Bret Stephens' First Column for the New York Times Is Classic Climate Change Denialism". Slate. Retrieved May 3, 2017. That Stephens doesn't bother to cite which climate-change facts are uncertain may be because he knows exactly what he is doing, and he's aware he wouldn't win that argument. Or it may be because he himself has fallen prey to his own argument about epistemic uncertainty, and so he no longer thinks the evidence matters. Either way, his accusation—that it is not the facts you should question, but the entire system that creates facts at all—is terrifying.
  58. ^ Rozsa, Matthew (May 4, 2017). "Climate scientists unite against New York Times columnist Bret Stephens: The Times' climate-denying columnist made an error in his first column". Slate. There was particular concern that Stephens would import his penchant for climate science denialism into the Times, a fear that was validated when Stephens devoted his very first column to that subject
  59. ^ "Soft Climate Denial at The New York Times". Scientific American. May 5, 2017. The naming of a "climate agnostic" as a regular columnist risks turning the newspaper of record into a vehicle for the spread of ignorance
  60. ^ a b Calderone, Michael; Baumann, Nick (April 15, 2017), "Hiring Another Anti-Trump Voice Expands Opinions Represented In Paper, New York Times Says: Bret Stephens won over progressive critics of the president, but his climate change views have sparked backlash.", Huffington Post
  61. ^ a b "New York Times Defends Hiring of Climate Science Denier Bret Stephens, Claiming 'Intellectual Honesty'". DeSmogBlog. April 25, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  62. ^ a b Corneliussen, Steven T. (April 17, 2013). "Bret Stephens, harsh Wall Street Journal critic of climate scientists, wins Pulitzer Prize: The award recognizes only certain columns from 2012, none reflecting his climate-wars participation". Physics Today. American Institute of Physics. doi:10.1063/PT.4.2441..
  63. ^ Roberts, David (May 1, 2017). "The New York Times should not have hired climate change bullshitter Bret Stephens". Vox. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
  64. ^ Hale, Benjamin (2016), The Wild and the Wicked: On Nature and Human Nature, MIT Press, p. 6, ISBN 9780262035408
  65. ^ a b Nuccitelli, Dana (April 29, 2017). "NY Times hired a hippie puncher to give climate obstructionists cover". The Guardian. In other words, the people obstructing climate policies are justified because climate "advocates" are too mean to them, and claim too much certainty about the future. This is of course nonsense.
  66. ^ Stephens, Bret (October 28, 2022). "Yes, Greenland's ice is melting, but..." New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  67. ^ "Bret Stephens Indeed Does Not Understand the Second Amendment". National Review. October 5, 2017. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
  68. ^ Concha, Joe (October 5, 2017). "NYT conservative Bret Stephens: 'Repeal the Second Amendment'". The Hill. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
  69. ^ Stephens, Bret (February 26, 2017), "Don't Dismiss President Trump's Attacks on the Media as Mere Stupidity", Time
  70. ^ Bret Stephens (August 22, 2018). "Donald Trump's High Crimes and Misdemeanors". The New York Times.

External links[edit]