DOJ charges man with threats against Merriam-Webster over dictionary's gender definitions of woman and girl

Jeremy David Hanson accused of making 'threats to commit anti-LGBTQ violence'

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

The Justice Department charged a California man of hurling threats of violence against the Massachusetts-based Merriam-Webster Inc., while he allegedly accused the dictionary of promoting "lies and anti-science propaganda" regarding its gender definition entries for the words "woman" and "girl."

Jeremy David Hanson, 34, of Rossmoor, California, was charged in federal court in Springfield, Massachusetts, by criminal complaint with one count of interstate communication of threats to commit violence. He was arrested and made an initial federal court appearance in the Central District of California on Wednesday. 

Court minutes show Magistrate Judge John Early ordered Hanson to be released into the custody of his mother, with whom he was already living. He was also ordered to submit to a mental health evaluation, wear a location monitoring bracelet, make no threatening communications, and to have no access to any device that can access the internet. 


The Boston Herald reported that Hanson’s mother told the court that her son is autistic, suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, is prone to "verbal hyperbole," and his medications had recently been changed. Hanson’s next federal court appearance is scheduled before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Katherine A. Robertson in Springfield on April 29. 

Federal prosecutors accused Hanson of allegedly targeting the Springfield-based Merriam-Webster Inc. and other institutions and individuals "with threats to commit anti-LGBTQ violence." 

Merriam-Webster dictionaries on display in a bookstore Nov. 10, 2003, in Niles, Illinois.

Merriam-Webster dictionaries on display in a bookstore Nov. 10, 2003, in Niles, Illinois. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

The criminal complaint says the threats spanned from Oct. 2 to 8, 2021, and prompted Merriam-Webster to close its offices in Springfield and New York City for approximately five business days. 

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, a user, later identified by authorities as Hanson, wrote comments "demonstrating bias against specific gender identities" submitted through the dictionary website’s "Contact Us" page and in the comments section on Merriam-Webster’s webpages that corresponded to the word entries for "girl" and "woman." 

"It is absolutely sickening that Merriam-Webster now tells blatant lies and promotes anti-science propaganda," Hanson, using the handle "@anonYmous," allegedly commented on Oct. 2,2021, on the dictionary’s website definition of "female." "There is no such thing as ‘gender identity.’ The imbecile who wrote this entry should be hunted down and shot."

As of Monday, Merriam-Webster’s first online entry for the word "female" reads "of, relating to, or being the sex that typically has the capacity to bear young or produce eggs," but a second entry defines female as "having a gender identity that is the opposite of male." The first entry for the word "girl" says "a female child from birth to adulthood," while the secondary entry says, "a person whose gender identity is female." A woman is defined as "an adult female person," according to the dictionary's website. 

Girls and boys head into the Beebe School, in Malden, Massachusetts, on April 5, 2021, as they return to full-time in-person school. 

Girls and boys head into the Beebe School, in Malden, Massachusetts, on April 5, 2021, as they return to full-time in-person school.  (Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via AP)

The criminal complaint says Hanson also posted a threat via the website’s "Contact Us" page. 

"You [sic] headquarters should be shot up and bombed. It is sickening that you have caved to the cultural Marxist, anti-science tranny [sic] agenda and altered the definition of ‘female’ as part of the Left’s efforts to corrupt and degrade the English language and deny reality," Hanson allegedly wrote. "You evil Marxists should all be killed. It would be poetic justice to have someone storm your offices and shoot up the place, leaving none of you commies alive."

On Oct. 8, 2021, prosecutors allege Hanson posted another threatening comment on the dictionary’s website and via the "Contact Us" page threatening to "bomb your offices for lying and creating fake…". 

"Hate-filled threats and intimidations have no place in our society," U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins said in a statement released on Friday. "We believe Hanson sent a multitude of anonymous threatening and despicable messages related to the LGBTQ community that were intended to evoke fear and division." 

"My office and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate threats against members of our communities, no matter what corner of the internet they’re sent from," she added. "Perpetrators will be identified, arrested and held accountable in federal court."

"Jeremy Hanson is accused of making hate-fueled threats of violence that crossed a line," Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, said in a statement of his own. 


"Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but repeatedly threatening to kill people, as has been alleged, takes it to a new level," he continued. "We are always going to pursue individuals who try to intimidate and isolate members of our community by inciting violent, hateful acts. Threats to life are most certainly not protected speech and they cause real fear in victims. Rest assured, the FBI will do everything we can to bring to justice anyone who commits these criminal acts."

FBI investigators said they identified numerous related threats, including to the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Land O’ Lakes, Hasbro Inc., IGN Entertainment, the president of the University of North Texas, two professors at Loyola Marymount University, and a New York City rabbi. Prosecutors said the charge of interstate transmission of communications to injure the person of another provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.

The Justice Department encourages individuals or entities who believe they may be victims of this crime to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts at 888-221-6023.