Bret Louis Stephens
November 21, 1973
|Education||University of Chicago (BA)|
London School of Economics (MSc)
|Spouse(s)||Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim|
Bret Louis Stephens (born November 21, 1973) is an American journalist, editor, and columnist. He began working at The New York Times in late April 2017 and as a senior contributor to NBC News in June 2017.
Stephens worked for The Wall Street Journal as a 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 the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2013.
Bret 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, Louis Ehrlich, was born in Kishenev (today Chișinău, Moldova) in 1901; he fled with his family to New York after a pogrom. Ehrlich changed the family surname to Stephens (after poet James Stephens). Louis Stephens moved to Mexico City, where he founded General Products and built his fortune. Louis married Annete 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 their father. Bret Stephens was raised in Mexico City. As a teenager, he attended boarding school at Middlesex School in Massachusetts.
He is married to Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, a music critic who writes for The New York Times. The couple have three children, and live 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 began his career at The Wall Street Journal as an op-ed editor in New York. He later worked as an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal Europe, in Brussels. Stephens edited the weekly "State of the Union" column on the European Union. He has been a frequent contributor to Commentary magazine.
In 2002, Stephens moved to Israel to become the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post. He was 28 years old. Rival newspaper Haaretz reported at the time that the appointment of Stephens, a non-Israeli, as editor triggered some unease among senior Jerusalem Post management and staff. Stephens said that one of the reasons he left the Wall Street Journal for the Jerusalem Post was because he believed that Western media was getting the Israel story wrong. "I do not think Israel is the aggressor here," Stephens said. "Insofar as getting the story right helps Israel, I guess you could say I’m trying to help Israel." Stephens led the Jerusalem Post during the worst years of the Palestinian campaign of suicide bombings against Israel and pointed the paper in more neoconservative direction. In 2003, the Jerusalem Post named Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of the Iraq war, as its Man of the Year. Stephens left the Jerusalem Post in 2004 and returned to the Wall Street Journal.In 2006, he took over the Journal's "Global View" column after George Melloan's retirement.
In 2005, Stephens was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He won the 2008 Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism. In 2009, he was named deputy editorial page editor after the retirement of Melanie Kirkpatrick. In 2010, Stephens won the Bastiat Prize.
Stephens won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, for "incisive columns on U.S. foreign policy and domestic politics, often enlivened by a contrarian twist." Stephens is a national judge of the Livingston Award. In 2015, Stephens joined the Real-Time Academy of Short Form Arts & Sciences. The Real-Time Academy judges contestants for the Shorty Awards, which honor the best individuals and organizations on social media.
Stephens has chaired two Pulitzer juries. In 2016, Stephens was the chair of the jury that awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting to Alyssa Rubin of the New York Times. In 2017, Stephens was the chair of the jury that awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing to Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times.
Stephens's book America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder was released in November 2014. In it, Stephens presents his belief 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 August 2019, Stephens sent a complaint to a George Washington University professor and the university's provost about a tweet in which the professor called Stephens a "bedbug." 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.
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 2016 United States presidential election, 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". Stephens has compared Trump to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. 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.
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...
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.
Stephens has been one of Trump’s most outspoken conservative critics
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.
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
The naming of a "climate agnostic" as a regular columnist risks turning the newspaper of record into a vehicle for the spread of ignorance
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.