“My Bad…..”

Things got a bit embarrassing for Naomi Wolf a couple of months ago when an interviewer informed her, during a live radio broadcast, of a substantive error in Outrages, her most recent book.  

As distressing as this episode was for Ms. Wolf, it pales in comparison with what a number of other authors have experienced when confronted with mistakes in their research.  A sampling:

— Duncan Fife-Prell, a professor at Middlebury College, claimed that Liechtenstein, not Germany, was the primary aggressor during World War II in his two-volume work, Tiny Terror: Liechtenstein and the Quest for World Domination.  Fife-Prell learned of his blunder when he attended a book signing at VFW Post No. 782 in Burlington, Vermont and was punched in the face by a veteran whose parents had emigrated to the United States from the small principality in 1910.  The author later acknowledged that he had been doing “serious amounts of cocaine” while working on the book. 

—  In Munch, his 2018 history of snack foods, Rutgers University Culinary Science professor Seth Halogen asserted that Slim Jims pre-dated Twizzlers.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Twizzlers were first produced in 1845, while Slim Jims did not appear until 1929, over 80 years later.

Halogen’s mistake was revealed on the PBS Newshour by anchor Judy Woodruff during a segment on “Chewing and Identity Politics.”  Dr. Halogen has not been seen since the show aired on June 26th, but his car was discovered three days later.  It was parked next to a Häagen-Dazs production facility in Bayonne, New Jersey that contained industrial vats of molten dark chocolate.  A sneaker was found floating in Vat No. 7.  There was no note. 

—  Finally, there is the case of Millicent Frittata, unauthorized biographer of the rich and famous.  In her 2019 book, You Don’t Know Jack!, she maintains that movie star Jack Lemmon was transgender.  As it turns out, Ms. Frittata had seen the raucous 1959 comedy “Some Like It Hot,” where Mr. Lemmon is often dressed as a woman, and thought the film was a documentary.  When questioned by a Washington Post reporter, she offered a half-hearted apology: “Okay, okay, but I still think there may be something going on there.”

Authors, take note: Fact-checking never goes out of style.