Libertarian social media has been ablaze the past few days after allegations that noted podcaster and author Tom Woods began dating his ex-wife at 26 when she was only 15 years old. Woods has denied the allegations, with a contingent of his fans claiming that the accusation is simply character assassination. However, the evidence released so far paints a different picture.
The scandal broke when Twitter user @AlekJ14 posted a thread with screenshots establishing that Woods’s ex-wife, Heather, considers their “I met you/I knew I wanted to marry you today” anniversary to be January 31, 1999. The thread further went on to show that based on her date of birth, she would have only been 15 years old at the time. Additional screenshots showed that the two got engaged in 2001, when Heather was only 18, and married in 2002, when she was 19.
At first, the only evidence supporting the allegations was the thread described above. Woods seemingly ignored the controversy at first, only commenting through an intermediary about it the next day after being tagged in a Facebook thread. Rather than addressing the veracity of the claims, he launched into a narcissistic tirade, raving about his accomplishments in life while writing that he “get[s] cheered wherever [he] go[es]” and stating that he “completely understand[s] why you envious fuckers act like this,” in reference to those accusing him of wrongdoing.
Shortly after, Woods took to Twitter to deny the allegations, stating flatly that they were not true. He further explained that he knew Heather’s family from her mother working for his magazine, that he and Heather “dated in ’02,” and that she was extremely mature for her age. However, this is where the inconsistencies in Woods’s story started to show. The same Twitter user who posted the original thread, @AlekJ14, responded to Woods saying that a Facebook post shows that he and Heather were actually engaged in 2001, the year before Woods claimed they even started dating. Woods acknowledged the error, writing that they actually started dating in 2001, and repeated that Heather was “extremely mature.” In another reply in which Woods was stressing how much of an adult she was at 19, he wrote that she was “going on 45 when [they] married.”
Taken by itself, Woods’s change in his claim to when he and Heather first started dating could have easily been chalked up to a typo or misremembering. However, after more evidence was subsequently thrust into the spotlight, the facts he gave in his denial highlighted the cracks in his story.
During Woods 2013 podcast episode on the Tom Woods Show entitled “Thanksgiving Turkey With Heather Woods,” Woods and Heather, then still married, launched into a conversation about the start of their relationship. Rather than saying that they started dating when Heather moved to New York in 2001, which is a story that Woods is still running with at the time this is being written, Heather says in the episode that their first real date was a phone call because she lived in Oklahoma: (11:34) “So our first actual date, I guess you would call it, was a three hour phone call, as you’re in New York and I was in Oklahoma.”
Now, the devil’s advocate position here would be that maybe this was directly before she moved to New York. However, as part of the same conversation, she says the following, indicating that they were dating, but far away from each other, for several years: (13:16) “Yeah, so, but I remember you know over the course of the next few years, while we did a lot of phone calls, he asked about how did I feel about the Republicans versus the Democrats?”
Given that “a few” generally refers to three or more, this invalidates Woods’s claim of having started dating Heather in 2001. In this case, a few years before their getting married in 2002 would be 1999, where Heather was only 15 years old until May. There is one more interesting interaction within the video. At 13:52, Heather says “Some of my instincts were kind of already in what your camp but because I was…” She can be heard whispering something, followed by the sound of laughter, and then Woods saying “yeah that’s ok.” She then continues with “because I was so young I hadn’t developed really theories around it at that point.” It is clear that she was asking whether it’s ok to say that she was young, with Woods giving her his approval.
This breakdown was posted on Twitter (and later on Facebook) by Fakertarians, an organization I am personally involved with. Rather than responding to being caught in a lie, Woods went on a rambling and utterly bizarre life-advice rant to @AlekJ14. Through 18 separate tweets, Woods claimed that @AlekJ14 was simply lashing out due to personal issues, writing that he knows @AlekJ14 “[is] about 21, . . . not the most popular with the ladies, insecure, and . . . drink[s]” while ending with a call for the Twitter user to “get [his] act together, and leave an impact on the world for the good.” Notably, nowhere in this outburst did Woods address the unearthed podcast episode.
The next day, Woods claimed that those accusing him of dating Heather when she was 15 had “now dropped that ridiculous claim,” an assertion based on no facts whatsoever. Woods claimed that the discussion had shifted to “complaining that [his] wife married too young,” seemingly in an attempt to distract from the more outrageous accusations. He explained that “all traditional Catholics marry young,” neglecting to point out that he was 30 years old at the time he married his 19-year-old wife.
Woods additionally (and strangely, given what evidence was already public knowledge) brought up the fact that he was “in a doctoral program in New York” at the time he was accused of dating Heather, neglecting to mention that the accusations levied already revolved around a largely long-distance relationship that was reflected in the podcast episode. It was as if Woods, knowing that he could not adequately explain the first-hand evidence from Heather’s own statements, had to create a false reality in order to not concede that the allegations were true.
The following day, Woods did more of the same while updating an article on his website entitled “Woods Derangement Syndrome.” After the article begins with paragraphs of narcissistic rambling about his accomplishments, Woods begins the section on this controversy by getting the year of his wedding incorrect (writing 2003 instead of 2002) and acting again as though the claim that he dated Heather when she was 15 had been abandoned by his critics. Woods also makes the claim that the people who were making these allegations were the people “who tried to alienate [former Libertarian Party Chairman candidate] Joshua Smith’s daughter from him,” even though neither @AlekJ14 nor Fakertarians were involved in the controversy he’s referring to.
Woods continued the article by again alleging that his residing in New York while Heather lived in Oklahoma somehow disproved the allegations of dating her when she was 15, even though it had already been established that their “first real date” was over the phone, with a few years’ worth of phone calls following afterwards. Likewise, he repeated the excuse about Catholics marrying young, writing that “in the traditional Catholic subculture it is extremely common for people to marry before age 25” and claiming that he was “mocked for this,” while neglecting to mention that he married at 30.
In a woefully inadequate defense against the claim that he groomed his ex-wife, Tom wrote that “the crazies are portraying me as a ‘groomer,’ as if the traditional pattern of that involves an old-fashioned courtship followed by a 13-year marriage and five children.” But in fact, nothing about having later gotten married (or having later had children) disqualifies a scenario from being child grooming. In fact, a grown man having years of hours-long phone conversations with an underage girl that started when she was 15, and which she referred to as “real dates,” sounds significantly more like grooming than Woods wants us to believe.
A day later, Heather’s sister, Tracy, made public accusations that Woods was lying about his relationship with Heather, supporting the allegations of grooming. Tracy alleged that Woods maintained a relationship with Heather through phone calls, email, and online chat when she was only 15 and that he told Heather’s parents that he was tutoring her in math. Tracy had earlier called out Woods for lying about Heather being the oldest of 13 children, given that Heather has two older brothers. Tracy additionally stated that Woods came to visit Heather several times when Heather was underage, starting when Heather was barely 16 in July of 1999. She wrote that “what happened with Heather was astoundingly inappropriate and never should have been normalized.” Later that night, Tracy provided additional clarification, explaining that Heather and Woods first began talking in an AOL chat room, after which they began a long-distance relationship without her parents’ knowledge.
After the posts from Tracy were publicized, Woods edited his “Woods Derangement Syndrome” article to remove some of his lies and misleading claims, including the part about not being able to date Heather because he lived in New York and the part about how his critics had dropped the claim that he dated Heather when she was 15. He also changed his claim that Heather was the oldest of 13 children to “the eldest daughter of 13 children” and wrote that the allegations were “bullshit from nobodies,” writing that “we did nothing wrong and I make zero apologies.”
While Heather herself has yet to comment publicly, an old social media post of hers seems to further confirm her sister’s story. In 2021, Heather was tagged in a tweet from an account called “Santa Decides” by another Twitter user. The tweet said that “your homie who is 26 with a 16 year old is on the naughty list because that’s gross.” In response to being tagged, Heather posted a pic of herself from when she was younger, seemingly indicating that she experienced something similar to what was described. Heather, who divorced Woods in 2015, previously wrote that the divorce “needed to happen for the safety of everyone involved.”
Many in the liberty movement, particularly those who are fans of Woods, have been apt to dismiss this as simply a defamatory political attack. However, I would caution those who think this to look critically about what has been presented. It is critical, no matter what faction of the liberty movement (or any movement at all) one resides in, to search for the truth. The phenomenon of looking the other way when one sees something that they wish to be false occurs not just among fans of Woods, but throughout all walks of life. Here, as evidenced by Woods’s numerous inconsistent statements and his willful ignorance of publicly available evidence, it is clear that he does not want the truth to be known. It is up to all of us to hold public figures like Woods accountable and figure out what that truth really is.