Jared Diamond tore into presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Wednesday's New York Times, writing in an op-ed that the former Massachusetts governor "misrepresented my views" when Romney talked about culture during a speech Sunday in Jerusalem.
Romney referenced Diamond's eye-opening book, "Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies," and said the writer's work "basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth."
Romney made the Jerusalem speech to donors Sunday during an overseas trip that was known more for its gaffes than anything else. Those missteps included the former Massachusetts governor criticizing London's preparation for the 2012 Olympics, which brought the term "Romneyshambles" into the political lexicon.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said culture was the reason why Israel has been successful while Palestinians lag behind.
In an op-ed published Wednesday in the New York Times, Diamond said Romney's summary of "Guns, Germs and Steel" indicated he never read the book.
What Romney said in Jerusalem "is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it," Diamond wrote in The Times. "My focus was mostly on biological features, like plant and animal species, and among physical characteristics, the ones I mentioned were continents' sizes and shapes and relative isolation. I said nothing about iron ore, which is so widespread that its distribution has had little effect on the different successes of different peoples."
Diamond, a geography professor at UCLA, said Romney's speech "misrepresented my views and, in contrasting them with another scholar's arguments, oversimplified the issue."
In the op-ed, Diamond goes on to say that a variety of factors are responsible for why some nations prosper and others linger in poverty.
"Just as a happy marriage depends on many different factors, so do national wealth and power," Diamond wrote. "That is not to deny culture's significance. Some countries have political institutions and cultural practices - honest government, rule of law, opportunities to accumulate money - that reward hard work. Others don't."
The Jared Diamond diatribe piqued the interest of Twitter users when "Jared Diamond" started trending in the Washington, D.C. area Thursday morning.
"The wonderful Jared Diamond says Romney either didn't read, or couldn't understand, his book. Gaffe-tastic!" opined journalist Peter Beaumont.
"How much smarter/better informed we'd be if oped pages had more Jared Diamond ...," wrote Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.