MoDo Hits a New Low


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!!

Original DVD cover.

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?

    1. 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.


Filed under Chimpy, Democrats, George W. Bush, humor, Iraq War, Joe Biden, Media, parody, politics, Republicans, Scandals, snark, television, Torture, Wordpress Political Blogs

32 responses to “MoDo Hits a New Low

  1. You screw up and get caught it’s on you. I have zero sympathy for writers who pull this kind of crap no matter whose political team they’re on. I have a similar sentiment for Pelosi except that it seems Bob Graham is backing pretty much everything she’s said so far. If her being in on some secrets is why she took impeachment off the table she can swing in the wind too. Defending hacks and shitheads is the GOP’s specialty, let them do it.

    • i have no sympathy for modo at all. her explanations so far have not been believable, and she’s the first pot to call the kettle black. she deserves a taste of her own medicine.

      as for pelosi, i’m no fan, but i tend to believe her in this case, especially because of bob graham and his infamous notes. i would be very, very surprised if any agency under chimpy told the truth about anything to anyone.

  2. i am not a dowd fan — and in this case her stories are about as logical as the cia telling the truth

  3. Vladislaw

    That is freshman level journalism.

  4. I’m quoting myself here– “A professional journalist should take care to quote their sources. “

    • fran,
      i don’t think she’d be stupid enough to copy an entire paragraph and think she wouldn’t get caught, so i wonder if she really writes her own columns. i can see some intern lifting the entire paragraph, changing one small part of it to sound a bit more like modo, and emailing it to her to put together with the other paragraphs from the other interns. remember she wrote a story about being in new hampshire for the democratic primary? she gave all kinds of cutesy details like she usually does. the only problem was that she wasn’t there! 😳 she was in a plane flying somewhere. i wonder what will happen now. will she fire the person who screwed up? maybe not, because that person will blab that modo doesn’t write her own stuff, because she’s too busy shopping for red shoes.

  5. I appreciate Dowd as an editorialist, but my estimation of her took a huge dive when I read both versions of Marshall’s paragraph.
    Clearly she got lazy and neglected to change the wording enough to make it seem like an original thought.
    As one of the few MSM editorialists still drawing a regular paycheck, she picked a horrible time to get lazy. It casts aspersions on her entire body of work.
    Hammer one more nail into the coffin of daily newspapers.

    • karen,
      i used to like her writing, but she’s become a self-absorbed asshole. she’s also one of the most boring interviews on tv. i wish she’d just go away. the times has no credibility if they don’t fire her. at the very least, they should print the truth of what really happened. her explanation was a bunch of crap.

  6. jeb

    In today’s academic environment the one thing that will get you in hot water is violating academic integrity vis-a-vis plagarism. The problem is more prevalent today with the internets. So if a young person is held accountable for that, should a professional journalist who’s whole fame is based upon her “integrity” get away with it.

    I agree with your theory Nonnie, she’s got interns doing her work and she’s reaping the bennies.

  7. Sounds like a typical blogger and not a very good one at that.

    • i think most bloggers, at least at the blogs i visit, are pretty good about giving credit where credit is due. even if that was not the case, a professional journalist should be held to a higher standard.

  8. I beg to disagree with yorknbeans. All the bloggers I know are meticulous about crediting their sources and quotes. What Dowd did was lazy and makes me also wonder if she actually writes her own column.

    • The ones I’m referring to are those who copy and paste parts of articles into their blog and don’t specify which is the blogger’s writing and which is the article. I’ve also seen entire articles cut and pasted with no credit given anywhere. I could mention the website, but I’ll refrain.

      • One more comment….I probably shouldn’t have said “typical”. I do think that most bloggers are sensitive to using others words and give credit when it’s due.

        • Thanks for calling me on that! πŸ˜‰

          • no worries, ynb! πŸ˜€
            i think typical was really the only word in question. i’ve seen my and other people’s stuff copied in their entirety with no attribution whatsoever. if it’s done accidentally, it’s forgivable. however, when it’s done every damned day, it’s theft.

  9. I can tell the wrong head is doing my thinking today. While I’m having a good laugh at Maureen Dowd’s expense along with everyone else, part of me notices that even your best efforts at making her look ridiculous can’t make her unattractive to me. Time to take a cold shower.

  10. aw. mo has her moments, but she can really fuck up, too. good photoshop, but all this self righteous huffing and puffing and calling for her firing is pretty silly.

    once when i was a drunken young college student i wrote in my journal, but ‘break! my heart, for i must hold my tongue.’ i looked at it in a sober moment and said, wow–not bad.

    it turned out to be from hamlet, which i had not yet read. quien sabia?

    it happens.

    • lulu maude,
      you are much more forgiving than i am. we’ll have to disagree on this one. modo’s faux pas was not an accident or coincidental, and her journalistic integrity is gone. kaput. if she had come clean at the beginning, then it might have been a different story, but she didn’t. she came up with a ridiculous story that doesn’t make sense. this is not the first time she got caught. how many chances does she get?

  11. Nope, I think she screwed the pooch on this one.. big time.

    She has done just what she called Joe Biden out about, and worse, if no one had called her on it, she would still be doing it and probably will continue doing it.

    She won’t be fired, the Times has already excused her, and all is going to be forgiven. What hypocrisy.