Alex Berenson (born January 6, 1973) is a former reporter for The New York Times and the author of several thriller novels and a book on corporate financial filings.

His 2019 book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence sparked controversy, earning denunciations from many in the scientific and medical communities.

During the coronavirus pandemic, he appeared frequently in right-wing media where he downplayed the severity of the pandemic, as well as made claims that face masks were ineffective. Epidemiologists and other scientists have disputed his claims.

Early life and education

Berenson was born in New York, and grew up in Englewood, NJ. He graduated from Yale University in 1994 with bachelor’s degrees in history and economics.

Career

Berenson joined the Denver Post in June 1994 as a business reporter. He published 513 articles through August 1996, when he left to join TheStreet.com, a financial news website founded by Jim Cramer. In December 1999, Berenson joined The New York Times as a business investigative reporter.

In the fall of 2003 and the summer of 2004, Berenson covered the occupation of Iraq for the Times. More recently, he covered the pharmaceutical and health care industries, specializing in issues concerning dangerous drugs. Beginning in December 2008, Berenson reported on the Bernard Madoff $50 billion Ponzi scheme scandal.

He has written 12 spy novels, all featuring the same protagonist, CIA agent John Wells. His first novel, The Faithful Spy, was released in April 2006 and won an Edgar Award for best first novel by an American author. The Faithful Spy was ranked #1 on The New York Times Bestseller List for paperbacks.

In 2008, Berenson released his second thriller, The Ghost War. His third novel, The Silent Man, followed in 2009. His fourth, The Midnight House, was released in 2010 and debuted at #9 on The New York Times bestseller list. The fifth, The Secret Soldier, was released in 2011 and debuted at #6 on the bestseller list. The sixth, The Shadow Patrol, was released in 2012, and debuted at #8. In July 2012, The Shadow Patrol was named a finalist for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, given by Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association.

In 2010, Berenson left the Times to become a full-time novelist. He lives in the Hudson Valley, with his wife, a forensic psychiatrist.

Opposition to cannabis legalization

He authored the controversial 2019 book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence that has been denounced as alarmist and inaccurate by many in the scientific and medical communities because of his claims that cannabis causes psychosis and violence; many scientists state that he is drawing inappropriate conclusions from the research, primarily by inferring causation from correlation,
as well as cherry picking
data that fits his narrative, and falling victim to selection bias via his use of anecdotes
to back up his assertions. Other reviews have been less critical, accepting the anecdotes as real-life examples of the science presented.

Coronavirus pandemic

Early in the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Berenson vocally argued that people and the media were overestimating the risk of the new virus, that it posed little risk to young Americans, and that it was being used as a cover for government overreach. Many public health experts have rejected his claims.

In May 2020, Fox News announced that Berenson would host a tv-show called “COVID Contrarian” on its online streaming platform Fox Nation. However, by July 2020, amid surges in coronavirus cases across parts of the United States, Fox News appeared to have backtracked and removed the announcement of his show from its website.

In 2021, Berenson tweeted that COVID-19 vaccinations had led to 50 times more adverse effects than flu vaccine. PolitiFact rated the claim, “mostly false.”

Books

Novels

John Wells series

No. Title Publisher Date Genre ISBN
1 The Faithful Spy Random House April 25, 2006 Spy fiction

ISBN 978-0-345-47899-3

2 The Ghost War Putnam February 12, 2008 Spy fiction ISBN 978-0-399-15453-9
3 The Silent Man Putnam February 10, 2009 Spy fiction ISBN 978-0-399-15538-3
4 The Midnight House Putnam February 10, 2010 Spy fiction ISBN 978-0-399-15620-5
5 The Secret Soldier Putnam February 8, 2011 Spy fiction ISBN 978-0-399-15708-0
6 The Shadow Patrol Putnam February 21, 2012 Spy fiction ISBN 978-0-399-15829-2
7 The Night Ranger Putnam February 12, 2013 Spy fiction ISBN 978-0-399-15972-5
8 The Counterfeit Agent Putnam February 11, 2014 Spy fiction ISBN 978-0-399-15973-2
9 Twelve Days Putnam February 10, 2015 Spy fiction ISBN 978-0-399-15974-9
10 The Wolves Putnam February 9, 2016 Spy fiction ISBN 978-0-399-17614-2
11 The Prisoner Putnam January 31, 2017 Spy fiction ISBN 978-0-399-17615-9
12 The Deceivers Putnam February 6, 2018 Spy fiction ISBN 978-0-698-40753-4

Non-fiction

  • The Number (novel) Random House, 2003, ISBN 978-0375508806
  • Lost in Kandahar (novel) Brilliance Audio, 2012, ISBN 978-1469230948
  • Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence, 2019, Free Press, ISBN 978-1982103668
  • Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 1: Introduction and Death Counts and Estimates, 2020

Awards

  • 2007 Edgar Award for best first novel, for The Faithful Spy

  • Author’s website