Update: A California man has pleaded guilty to sending repeated death threats to Merriam-Webster in October of last year because he was upset with its definitions on gender identity. His actions caused the company to shut down its offices for five days. The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts says in a press release that as part of his plea, Jeremy Hanson also admitted to sending similar threats to other targets, including the Walt Disney Co., the governor of California, and the mayor of New York City. NBC News reports he also chided Hasbro after the toymaker gave Mr. Potato Head a gender-neutral name. He will be sentenced Jan. 5. Our original story from April 2022 follows:
A California man is accused of sending repeated death threats to Merriam-Webster because he was upset with their definitions on gender identity. Authorities say 34-year-old Jeremy Hanson of Rossmoor made the threats anonymously through the company's "contact us" page online and in its comments section, reports CNN. An example: “There is no such thing as ‘gender identity,'" he allegedly wrote in regard to the definition of "female," per the New York Times. “The imbecile who wrote this entry should be hunted down and shot.” In another, he allegedly wrote that it "would be poetic justice to have someone storm your offices and shoot up the place."
The dictionary has been tweaking its definitions on gender in recent years to be more inclusive, notes USA Today. For example, it added "they" as a non-binary singular pronoun. Authorities say they tracked the online threats to a computer at Hanson's home. His mother describes her son as autistic and says he has a fixation with gender identity issues, per the Times. Authorities say he sent similar threats to entities including the American Civil Liberties Union, Hasbro, Land O'Lakes, and Amnesty International, often accusing them of "Marxist" behavior.
"Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but repeatedly threatening to kill people, as has been alleged, takes it to a new level," says Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division Joseph R. Bonavolonta. Hanson is charged with interstate communication of threats to commit violence. (Merriam-Webster is based in Massachusetts.) If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. (Read more Merriam-Webster stories.)