A TPMCafe blogger charged plagiarism earlier after picking up on a striking similarity between a passage in Maureen Dowd’s column today and a recent post by TPM editor Josh Marshall.
Dowd: “More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when the Bush crowd was looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.”
Marshall: “More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.”
😯 How did that happen? After some digging, your intrepid reporter (that would be me) has cracked the case! Sockpuppet!!
Since then, Dowd’s column has been updated with a reference to Marshall and notes that there hadn’t been proper attribution in the original Times piece.
While it might be assumed that Dowd accidentally cut-and-pasted the passage in her notes, and forgot the attribution, she tells Huffington Post that she never actually read Marshall’s item. So how did it wind up on today’s op-ed page?
i was talking to a friend of mine Friday about what I was writing who suggested I make this point, expressing it in a cogent — and I assumed spontaneous — way and I wanted to weave the idea into my column.
but, clearly, my friend must have read josh marshall without mentioning that to me. we’re fixing it on the web, to give josh credit, and will include a note, as well as a formal correction tomorrow.
So Dowd unknowingly quoted Marshall without attribution, while assuming she was knowingly quoting a friend without attribution — a friend who apparently has a great memory for remembering TPM posts verbatim and feeding them to Times columnists.
UPDATE 3: Dowd responded to POLITICO by email: “Its a friend I talk to by phone and email; I just had no idea that point was josh’s; josh is now credited on the web in my column and I asked [editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal] to do another formal correction. And I owe him lunch.”
So was Dowd taking notes from a friend talking on the phone (who could have been reading straight from TPM)? Or did this friend simply cut-and-paste the TPM passage, and send it her way? It’s still unclear.
From Maureen Dowd at The New York Times (September 12, 1987):
The Neil Kinnock commercial did not lead to electoral success last May in Britain, but the 10-minute spot of the Labor Party leader’s passionate speeches, against a cool soundtrack of Brahms, raised his approval rating by 19 points and became an instant classic.
On this side of the Atlantic, many Presidential campaign strategists of both parties greatly admired the way it portrayed Mr. Kinnock, who subsequently lost to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as a man of character. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, a Democratic hopeful, was particularly taken with it.
So taken, in fact, that he lifted Mr. Kinnock’s closing speech with phrases, gestures and lyrical Welsh syntax intact for his own closing speech at a debate at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 23 – without crediting Mr. Kinnock.
You can read snippets from Mr. Kinnock and from Joe Biden. Unlike MoDo, Joe Biden paraphrased.
At various campaign appearances last month, the Senator talked admiringly about Mr. Kinnock’s themes and incorporated phrases and concepts after first crediting the Briton. But, in his closing remarks at the Iowa State Fair forum, he did not mention the Labor leader, nor did he some days later in an interview when he recounted the positive response.
“He was not trying to put something over,” said one adviser. ”He’s under a huge amount of pressure. He didn’t even know what he said. He was just on automatic pilot.”
But Mr. Biden’s borrowing raises questions about how much a candidate can adapt someone else’s language and thoughts, whether he remembers to give credit or not.