The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

05 April 2006

Plagiarism, Al Franken, Ben Domenech, Newsbusters


On Franken's Plagiarism, Why The Double-Standard?

While ultimately proven guilty as sin, it was just over a week ago that we watched the blogosphere, both left and right, instantly tear a conservative writer to shreds over an ever-increasing list of plagiaristic transgressions.

When the shoe is on the left foot, however, why is the issue swept under the carpet?

Even though right-leaning blogger/editor/columnist Ben Domenech was ultimately confronted with astounding examples of stolen work, the speed by which his neck was chopped off was a bit unsettling. Clearly, in the blogosphere, due process is still a rather fuzzy concept.

When the writer in question is Al Franken, however, why are less serious (but still quite genuine) charges virtually ignored?

Because Franken carries so much political baggage, we spend our equalizing time pursuing only the most important stories, avoiding unverified allegations that sometimes lurk in dark corners of the Internet.

This one, however, is easily checked out and using our copy of Franken's second book (purchased for 50 cents at a yard sale, did we overpay?), we did so.

Sparked by this week's fishy media ethics conference featuring Al Gore, Dave Pierre at Newsbusters asks this:

As reported by Newsbusters on Sunday (April 2, 2006), Middle Tennessee State University is hosting a journalism conference this week called, "Self-Inflicted Wounds - Fact and Fiction in Journalism: Fabrication, Plagiarism and Confidential Sources" (Al Gore is delivering an opening address.)

Here's a question: On the topic of plagiarism, will the conference breach the subject of Al Franken

In his recent book Pants on Fire: How Al Franken Lies, Smears, and Deceives, Alan Skorski (who has been featured on C-SPAN's Book TV) analyzed Al Franken's body of so-called "research," including his 2003 bestselling book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. Skorski provides compelling evidence that "Franken appears to have plagiarized" passages of his book from a 2001 report on the Fox News Channel by the liberal organization FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting). Skorski's most striking examples:

FAIR, July/August 2001: "The Most Biased Name in News" by Seth Ackerman, writing about Hannity & Colmes:

Even Fox's "left-right" debate show, Hannity & Colmes--whose Crossfire-style format virtually imposes numerical equality between conservatives and "liberals"--can't shake the impression of resembling a Harlem Globetrotters game ...

FRANKEN, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (Dutton, 2003, hardcover 1st edition), page 63:

For those of you unfamiliar with the Hannity and Colmes dynamic, it's a conservative-versus-liberal talking head show, kind of a combination between Crossfire and a Harlem Globetrotters game.

"Crossfire"? "A Harlem Globetrotters game"? "Conservatives"? "Liberals"? Yikes. That's a tough one to write off as a simple coincidence, especially in light of some other "striking similarities of thought and expression" that Mr. Skorski found in nearby passages...

As Pierre's piece continues, other examples are cited. While not quite as serious as those by Domenech and disgraced New York Times reporter Jayson Blair (with Franken in the images shown here), plagiarism is plagiarism, isn't it?

So, months after Alan Skorski made these comparisons in his book, where's the Internet uproar?

One theory: because few believe Franken contributes more than a few words to "his" books, are these accusations are more properly levelled at his Harvard writing team?

Does this hold water? It's Al's name there on the cover, isn't he on the hook for what's inside?

In addition, when a conservative is in trouble, heat comes from both sides. But when one of their own faces similar accusations, the left will remain silent, or go into nasty mode. It then becomes about "right-wing attack dogs" trying to tear down good "progressives".

As to why Franken gets away with so much, what's your theory? Feel free to leave a comment below.

WELCOME Instapundit readers, please click here for other updates.

UPDATE: there's some grumpiness out there from a few people who believe only they have the right to define plagiarism. We were clear that it doesn't rise to the level of Ben Domenech or Jayson Blair, but is still worth investigating.

What's becoming tiresome: people who believe they look "fair" if they attack their own, while defending the other side. It's not fooling anybody.

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Two peas graphics: David A Lunde for the Radio Equalizer.

Congrats to Captain Ed on his big award!


  • Q: What did Ronald Reagan like to call his proposed Star Wars missile defense system?

    A: "Where am I? mommy?"

    Plagiarized from Jim Earl on AAR's Marc Maron Show, April 4, 2006.

    By Blogger @whut, at 05 April, 2006 03:15  

  • I love Lunde's Graphic of AAR and NYT in bed together in the earlier post...

    Why does the public, including the press let Al get away with plagiarizing? Well, they let him get away with everything else, so why not that too.

    By Blogger FYIFYI, at 05 April, 2006 09:35  

  • Maybe its because he is a no talent unfunny washed up hasbeen of a comedian who virtually no one listens to. So I am advancing pity as the reaosn here.

    By Blogger Seriouslyunserious, at 05 April, 2006 09:44  

  • You can read my detailed thoughts here:

    But in short, this is a sad excuse for a plagiarism accusation. go back to work and find something better.

    By Blogger Dave, at 05 April, 2006 15:53  

  • I am unable to find what exactly it is the writer is trying to say because of the inabilityh of the writer to be idrect and to the point. But, assuming there is something there, plagerism is not always simply plagerism: there are degrees of of taking work from others, as any student passing a basic English course has learned.

    And the comment aboive mine is some more of the drivel that spews out as Commentary but reflects back on the immaturity of the commentator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 April, 2006 15:59  

  • 1. Because it is not a word for word lift. Sure, he should have credited the original research, but he is such a gnat among the killer bees of really good political writers that nobody really cares if he stole something or not. He is not an original thinker and he doesn't pose as one.
    2. I dare say that nobody with a whistle read his book, so no noise.

    By Blogger Howard, at 05 April, 2006 16:02  

  • Oh, come on, you know Franken is just going to blame one of his interns or assistants. That's how it's done. Get caught, blame the underling. An anonymous intern.

    By Blogger Hecla Ma, at 05 April, 2006 16:07  

  • It's a dumb comparison.
    Franken is a winded up toy, a deliver guy. His idea of satire is the license to tell lies in a "charming way". He steals everything including dem talking points.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 April, 2006 16:08  

  • This is news? I read about this a while ago and though nothing of it. But once again, you blow it up 10-fold, Baloney. Plagiarism would be if Franken used the same wording - not just a similar description.

    By Blogger Mr. Kite, at 05 April, 2006 16:34  

  • As Fark's Drew Curtis would say "With all the World's other problems now solved, we knitpick over an entertainer's words".

    Really, really lame stuff, dude.

    I do understand why guys like Limbaugh, Franken, Coulter, et al. endlessly dwell on partisan politics -- they are entertainers earning a good wage for it.

    Pretty much, everyone else, I have no clue what the hell they're thinking.

    Anyway, good work. Way to eyeball a meaningless situation, and then do what you can to make it actually insipid, in a nation where real, actual important stuff happens daily. Stellar.

    What are your thoughts on JLo's political views, by the way? Or Jessica Simpson's? Do they plagiarize?

    If you're going to be fluff, go all the way.


    By Blogger William K. Wolfrum, at 05 April, 2006 16:53  

  • Very true. If you're going to plagiarize something. Be sure and rearrange the words or paraphrase a bit. That way you're scott-free.

    Domenech committed a pretty known rookie mistake.

    By Blogger Grandes Cigarro, at 05 April, 2006 16:57  

  • Also, Franken continues the Harlem Globetrotters analogy in the next sentence:
    "Hannity spins around on the floor, dribbling behind his back, tossing alley-oops to Peggy Noonan and Bill Bennett. Colmes, the lone Washington General, stubmles around confused until Ollie North hits him in the face with a bucket of confetti".

    By Blogger Jacob, at 05 April, 2006 17:11  

  • The connection of two words doesn't really rise to the level of plagiarism in my mind. He probably read the report and the analogy stuck in his subconscious (or that of his Harvard staff).

    Globtrotters is also a pretty decent description when you look at the way Hannity verbally smashes his ideological opponents with his refusal to accept spin for answers. If the metaphor fits well its not unlikely that two sources came up with the same one.

    I hope the guys book has more than Globtrotter bit as evidence.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 April, 2006 17:25  

  • So I suppose this would make everyone that regurgitates RNC 'Talking Points' in written form is a plagairist also?

    By Blogger Why?, at 05 April, 2006 19:44  

  • 1. "Plagiarism would be if Franken used the same wording - not just a similar description."

    WRONG! See Harvard's policy of academic honesty and plagiarism" and Harvard's "Witing With Sources":

    "Am I plagiarizing if I accidentally use a few vivid phrases from my reading without citing them? Yes; it’s your responsibility to avoid such accidents (p. 14b)."

    "Plagiarism can occur on any kind of assignment, from a two-page problem set or response paper to a twenty-page research paper or a thesis. More common than wholesale copying, especially in longer papers, is piecemeal or mosaic plagiarism, in which a student mixes words or ideas of a source (unacknowledged) in with his or her own words and ideas, or mixes together uncited words and ideas from several sources into a pastiche, or mixes together properly cited uses of a source with uncited uses."

    2. If this were Ann Coulter, I bet the NY Times and LA Times would already be on this. Again, Franken gets a pass.

    By Blogger frankenlies, at 06 April, 2006 08:45  

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