Bret Louis Stephens (born November 21, 1973) is an American journalist, editor, and political commentator. Stephens began working as a contributing columnist at The New York Times in late April 2017 and as a senior political contributor for NBC News in June 2017. He formerly worked for The Wall Street Journal as the foreign-affairs columnist and the deputy editorial page editor and was responsible for the editorial pages of its European and Asian editions. From 2002 to 2004, he was editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post. He won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2013.
Bret Louis Stephens
November 21, 1973
|Education||University of Chicago (BA)|
London School of Economics (MSc)
|Known for||Editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post|
|Spouse(s)||Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim|
Early life and educationEdit
Stephens was born in New York City, the son of Xenia and Charles J. Stephens, a former vice president of General Products, a chemical company in Mexico. Both his parents were secular Jews. His paternal grandfather had changed the family surname from Ehrlich to Stephens (after poet James Stephens). He was raised in Mexico City, where his father was born and worked. In his adolescence, he attended boarding school at Middlesex School in Massachusetts. Stephens received an undergraduate degree in political philosophy from the University of Chicago before earning a master's degree in comparative politics at the London School of Economics.
In 2006, he took over the "Global View" column after George Melloan's retirement. In 2009, he was named deputy editorial page editor after the retirement of Melanie Kirkpatrick.
From 2002 to 2004, he was editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post. He won the 2008 Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism and the 2010 Bastiat Prize. In 2005, Stephens was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He is also a frequent contributor to Commentary magazine.
Stephens won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Commentary recognizing his 2012 columns for the Journal for "incisive columns on U.S. foreign policy and domestic politics, often enlivened by a contrarian twist."
Stephens authored the book America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder, released in November 2014. The book presents the case that the U.S. has been retreating from its role as the "world's policeman" in recent decades, which will lead to ever greater world problems.
In June 2017, Stephens became an on-air contributor to NBC News and MSNBC. In September 2017, he received the Lowy Institute Media Award recognizing excellence in Australian foreign affairs journalism.
Foreign policy was one of the central subjects of the columns for which Stephens won the Pulitzer Prize. His foreign policy opinions have been characterized as neoconservative, part of a right-wing political movement associated with president George W. Bush that advocated the use of military force abroad, particularly in the Middle East, as a way of promoting democracy there. Stephens was a "prominent voice" among the media advocates for the start of the 2003 Iraq War, for instance writing in a 2002 column that, unless checked, Iraq was likely to become the first nuclear power in the Arab world. 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. Stephens has also argued strongly against the Iran nuclear deal and its preliminary agreements, arguing that they were a worse bargain even than the 1938 Munich Agreement with Nazi Germany.
Stephens is a supporter of Israel. Stephens has caused controversy for his remarks referring to an Egyptian athlete's refusal to shake his Israeli Olympic opponent's hand as "the disease of the Arab mind." Stephens argues that this incident is indicative of the problem of anti-semitism in the Arab world.
During the campaign for the United States presidential election, 2016, Stephens became part of the Stop Trump movement, regularly writing Wall Street Journal articles opposing the candidacy of Donald Trump, and becoming "one of Trump’s most outspoken conservative critics". 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.
Stephens is also known for his climate change contrarianism, and his mainstream media appointments have given him a prominent voice on this subject. He has been described as a climate change denier; Stephens disavows this term, and calls himself "agnostic" on the issue.
Stephens accepts that human-caused global warming has been occurring, but denies that the change constitutes a threat, and mocks climate change activism "as hysterical alarmism" that distracts the public from issues he considers more important, such as terrorism. He argues that global warming activism is based on theological beliefs, rather than science, as an outgrowth of western tendencies to expect punishment for sins. He has also suggested that climate change activists would be more persuasive if they were less sure of their beliefs.
Stephens' positions on this issue led to a protest in 2013 over his Pulitzer citation omitting his climate change columns, and to a strong backlash against his 2017 New York Times posting. In reaction, the New York Times defended the "intellectual honesty and fairness" of its new columnist.
He is married to Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, a music critic who writes for The New York Times. The couple has three children, and lives in New York City. He was previously married to Pamela Paul, the editor of The New York Times Book Review. Having spent his childhood in Mexico, he is fluent in Spanish.
- Stephens, Bret (April 28, 2017). "Climate of Complete Certainty". The New York Times.
- Calderone, Michael (April 12, 2017). "NYT memo on hiring @StephensWSJ". Twitter. Retrieved April 13, 2017.
- Born in New York City, per Bret Stephens, interviewed on C-SPAN2's BookTV program, After Words, Jan 17, 2015. "After Words: Bret Stephens, author of America in Retreat, interviewed by Bob Minzesheimer — Book TV". Retrieved March 24, 2015.
...First of all I was born in New York and 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...
- Balint, Judy Lash (January 23, 2003). "Getting To Know You". Jerusalem Diaries. Archived from the original on January 28, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- "Weddings; Pamela Paul, Bret Stephens". The New York Times. September 20, 1998.
- Stephens, Bret (June 26, 2009). "Being Bret Stephens -- Or Not". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- "Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Appoints Key Editors for Its International Editions". Global News Wire. August 12, 2009.
- "Bret Stephens: Deputy editor, editorial page, The Wall Street Journal". Retrieved May 2, 2017.
- "About Us". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on November 16, 2008. Retrieved July 2, 2008.
- "Bret Stephens: Deputy editor, editorial page, The Wall Street Journal". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 2, 2008. With some archive of WSJ articles.
- "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).
- Stephens, Bret (May 12, 2014). "Iran and the Bomb". Prager University.
- Concha, Joe (June 28, 2017). "MSNBC signs conservative columnist Bret Stephens". The Hill. Retrieved 2018-07-13.
- Stephens, Bret (September 24, 2017). "Opinion | The Dying Art of Disagreement". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-09-29.
- Walt, Stephen M. (June 20, 2014). "Being a Neocon Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry". Foreign Policy.
- Chait, Jonathan (August 22, 2016). "The Neocons Have Gone From GOP Thought-Leaders to Outcasts". New York Magazine.
- 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
- "WSJ's Bret Stephens Weighs In On Israel, the Media & Trump - Detroit Jewish News". April 13, 2017.
- "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.
- 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
- Stephens, Bret (February 26, 2017), "Don't Dismiss President Trump's Attacks on the Media as Mere Stupidity", Time
- Johansen, Bruce E. (2009). The Encyclopedia of Global Warming Science and Technology. ABC-CLIO. p. 166. ISBN 9780313377020.
- Mann, Michael E. (2013), The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, Columbia University Press, p. 70, ISBN 9780231152556
- "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.
- 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
- "Soft Climate Denial at The New York Times". 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
- 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
- "New York Times Defends Hiring of Climate Science Denier Bret Stephens, Claiming 'Intellectual Honesty'". Retrieved May 3, 2017.
- 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..
- Hale, Benjamin (2016), The Wild and the Wicked: On Nature and Human Nature, MIT Press, p. 6, ISBN 9780262035408
- 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.
- Stephens, Bret (June 26, 2009). "Being Bret Stephens – Or Not". The Wall Street Journal.
- 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.
- 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. Retrieved September 16, 2017.