American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray said women have underdeveloped brains. Never mind. He didn’t say that.
This was a fake quote in the The Frederick News-Post, a daily Maryland newspaper that apologized after publishing the deception.
The fake quotes came from the satire website Newslo, which identifies itself as “the first ever hybrid news/satire platform.” The article also misstated what Murray’s job was.
The News-Post has rewritten the column that featured the fake quotes and published a letter to the editor explaining what was wrong with the column.
The May 23 column, “Thinking outside of the kitchen,” now carries an editor’s note that reads:
“This column has been rewritten and republished to correct errors by the columnist detailed in a Letter to the Editor that can be found here.”
The letter to the editor, published May 24, was from Murray’s wife, Catherine Bly Cox. Cox’s letter says in part,
“Most of the quotations offered by Ms. Weller are the fabrication of a satirical website called Newslo. Newslo allows you to push a button that highlights the facts woven into their satire. Women have undeveloped brains and deserve lower pay? Anyone can visit the site and discover that this was written by the website, not by Charles, who has never, anywhere, said any such thing.”
She also pointed out that Murray wasn’t an educational adviser to Greg Abbott, a Republican candidate for governor in Texas, as the original column claimed.
Cox went on to question the claim in the original column that Murray said there was no “evidence” about a woman being a “significant thinker,” which she said was out of context.
Cox called for news outlets to do better in sourcing after the harm caused by the News-Post’s actions: “Individuals who write for publication need to look carefully at the sources of the material they use, and take care with the accuracy of their quotations,” she wrote. “In the age of Google, it’s not that difficult to do. Sadly, in the age of Google it’s also easy to patch together a mélange of third-hand misinformation. Writers should take account of the hurt they can cause when they don’t check their facts.”
What the Original Column Said
The original News-Post column, by Patricia Weller, is about how “these are not the best of times to be a woman.”
iMediaEthics found a Google Cache of the original article, which reported Murray said “women’s brains have not developed to the same degree as men’s.”
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Weller’s column falsely claimed Murray was an “educational adviser to Greg Abbott, a Republican candidate for governor of Texas.” Weller cited comments attributed to Murray that she said that the Daily Kos and Huffington Post published in which Weller made negative comments about women and their brains.
Weller’s column originally said:
“As reported in the Daily Kos and the Huffington Post, Charles Murray, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute and educational advisor to Greg Abbott, Republican candidate for governor of Texas, is of the opinion that we women are not firing on all cylinders. Recently, in defending remarks he wrote in 2005 stating that there was no ‘evidence’ that a woman has ever been ‘a significant thinker,’ Murray said that women’s brains have not developed to the same degree as men’s.
“Murray went on to suggest that the size of our brains, ladies, is the reason for inequality in pay.
“You don’t pay the same at the pump for regular and supreme,” he said. “Why would you expect to pay the same for the work of a less-developed intellect?”
“It gets worse. When questioned about whether he agreed with his advisor, Texas gubernatorial candidate Abbott said that Murray was a smart man, so it must be true.
“Here we thought we were catching up only to find out we are still inferior. Who knew?”
An April 10 article published on Newslo appears to be the article the News-Post used. Newslo’s article quoted Murray as saying women have breasts because their brains aren’t developed enough. Newslo wrote:
“When you compare the size of a man’s brain with that of a woman, there’s no comparison… It’s not that I have anything against women. They’re nice enough, but it’s just a physical fact that their brains have developed to the same degree that men’s brains have developed.”
“I’m not a doctor…but it may have something to do with their need to develop breasts. The human body can’t do everything.”
The article now deletes those paragraphs and only makes a brief reference to Murray. The rewritten text concerning Murray now just includes one quote from one of Murray’s papers. The article says now:
“In 2005, Charles Murray, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, wrote a paper entitled ‘The Inequality Taboo,’ which, among other things, stated that, ‘No woman has been a significant original thinker in any of the world’s great philosophical traditions.’ OK, even if I could accept Mr. Murray’s argument that men are better at abstract thinking than women are, as The Atlantic defines the essence of Murray’s essay, it wouldn’t explain why men often think negatively when it comes to women.”
iMediaEthics has written to the News-Post for more information about its error and to Murray for comment. We’ll update with any additional information.
Hat Tip: Jim Romenesko