An enduring problem in academia professors also plagiarize but get away with it

Bonnie K. Goodman
22 min readFeb 22, 2022

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Dorris Kearns Goodwin faced a plagiarism scandal in 2002. Wikipedia Commons

In academia, there is a code of honor about not attributing ideas, citing, and plagiarizing authors. Teachers teach students the academic and career consequences of plagiarizing work that belongs to someone else. Professor of Law & Political Theory at the University of Kent Davina Cooper notes, “Stealing ideas and phrases from published writers (or other students), we tell our classes, is a serious offence — far more damaging to their future career prospects than other unlicensed takings.” If a graduate student finds out someone is writing a topic for their thesis and theirs is too close, they must defer to the one started and published first.

Cooper’s article “Who’s ideas are they anyway Academic work as a form of public action, rather than possession” looks at the concept of academics owning their ideas. While most academics are overly careful when citing another’s scholar’s work, they have to at the same time be concerned about others taking their ideas. Scholars’ worry about having others take their ideas leads them not to discuss unpublished work or work in progress at conferences or other academic events. Academics guard their work carefully because losing their intellectual capital causes a variety of negative ramifications to their careers and finances. [1]

Cooper explains, “But to blame individual academics for a kind of narcissistic possessiveness is to ignore wider social and economic conditions. For academics working in higher education, employment, status, salary and visibility depend on maintaining some kind of possessive attachment to what they have created. To give work away without attribution, to write under pseudonyms happens. But often it’s experienced as a generosity that can be ill-afforded. Scholarship, ideas, research, thoughts are the cultural capital academics rely upon. And academic value unfortunately rests on the appearance of distinction (of one’s ideas, work and intellectual identity), along with the ability to make a recognised ownership claim (producing a name at the front of a work).” [2]

While plagiarism is an academic offense that can ruin careers, it is also a crime; and an intellectual property law violation. The National Juris University describes plagiarism and the position on borrowing information, “There should be no “borrowing” of material in academic research and writing without proper attribution. Borrowing — or stealing — information by not attributing the work to its original author (also called citing) is equivalent to plagiarism.” [3]

In borrowing, the university explains explicitly the rules regarding borrowing through paraphrasing. The NJ University explains, “In both paraphrasing ideas and directly quoting other scholars, in order not to plagiarize information, students must provide citations in the correct style of the discipline being represented. When paraphrasing, students must avoid using language and sentence structure that too closely models the work being paraphrased. The paraphrase should capture the student’s ability to distill the most important information from the scholar and present it in a new and interesting way, using correct documentation.” [4] The Oxford University Press Blog defines the “Six common types of plagiarism in academic research,” which includes paraphrasing a text with different words, patchwork or mosaic of sources, verbatim of a text, source-based plagiarism, incorrectly citing a source, global plagiarism having someone else write the piece, and self-plagiarism submitting one’s work multiple times and publications. [5]

Most universities find that undergraduates are the worse plagiarism offenders. If they got away with it in high school, students in their early years are the most suspect. Professors exact their punishments on students ranging from failure on their assignment, failing the course, to even suspension and expulsion. A 2015 Times investigation in the United Kingdom found almost 50,000 students were caught cheating in the previous three years, amounting to a so-called ‘plagiarism epidemic.’” [6] The study found eleven British universities had more than 1,000 cases of cheating, with the University of Kent at the top of the list with nearly two thousand cases. Most of the cheating was by international students from outside the European Union, and a third came from China. These international students were “coming out as being more than four times as likely to cheat in exams and coursework.” [7] One of the most common forms of cheating was buying essays from writing services called “type two cheating.”

The internet provides vast opportunities for students to plagiarize, making it easier to buy essays from mills, lift paragraphs from published works to borrowing without proper attribution, often done accidentally. Universities and professors give brief workshops or warnings about copying, providing students minimal instruction to properly deal with university essay writing and citation. Studies on plagiarism do not distinguish between students that purposely or accidentally plagiarize.

The Covid-19 pandemic has only increased the number of students cheating. At American universities, cheating increased on average by over fifty percent, some universities three times the number of cases they found in the previous academic year. [8] “According to an annual report from” the Ohio State University “committee on academic misconduct.… students shared information during the exam or used unauthorized materials.” [9] Professor Tricia Bertram Gallant, at the University of California, San Diego, who specializes in researching academic integrity, spoke to NPR, the National Public Radio explaining the phenomenon. Gallant noted, “There was probably increased cheating because there were more temptations and opportunities and stress and pressure. Faculty were probably detecting it more. It’s easier to catch in the virtual world, in many ways, than it is in the in-person world.” [10]

Remote learning only magnifies the cheating problem, and software is being used to detect the cheating. Universities and professors are increasingly using software to proctor exams and detect plagiarism, which has been used longer by professors to check essays. When transferring to online learning, exams were also being administered at home online. Students took exams in their bedrooms with access to devices and cell phones that allowed them to cheat and contact other students while taking exams online or when taking take-home exams. Students used any available sources on the internet when they were not allowed, which was considered cheating.

Experts are uncertain whether cheating increased or the methods to uncover and survey the students only improved. It is easier to cheat in person than on the computer and at home because it is traceable with a digital footprint. James Orr, a “board member of the International Center for Academic Integrity,” told NPR, “Just because there’s an increase in reports of academic misconduct doesn’t mean that there’s more cheating occurring. In the online environment, I think that faculty across the country are more vigilant in looking for academic misconduct.” [11] University officials have been more understanding of these forms of cheating, some calling it “miscommunication” about the rules.[12]

Students might not always know better; professors should. What universities overlook is the frequency their faculty plagiarizes. In research universities, the faculty is stressed; they have to teach, participate in professional duties, and produce original research. In their 2012 study, Professors Benson Honig and Akanksha Bedi examined plagiarism among Management faculty in their article, “The Fox in the Hen House: A Critical Examination of Plagiarism Among Members of the Academy of Management,” finding a quarter of the academics plagiarized.

Honig and Bedi noted, “Research on academic plagiarism has typically focused on students as the perpetrators of unethical behaviors, and less attention has been paid to academic researchers as likely candidates for such behaviors. We examined 279 papers presented at the International Management division of the 2009 Academy of Management conference for the purpose of studying plagiarism among academics. Results showed that 25% of our sample had some amount of plagiarism, and over 13% exhibited significant plagiarism. This exploratory study raises an alarm regarding the inadequate monitoring of norms and professional activities associated with Academy of Management members.” [13]

The Oxford University Press Blog indicates that during the pandemic, plagiarism increased by faculty and students alike. Their article, “Six common types of plagiarism in academic research,” quotes a number of recent studies that indicate how prevalent plagiarism is in academia. One study indicated that 10 percent of students submit essays written by others, mostly purchasing texts from essay writing services. OUP recounts, “Across Australia more than 1 in 10 university students submit assignments written by someone else, with new research suggesting that 95% of students who cheat this way are not caught.” [14] OUP quotes a Copyleaks study about plagiarism among faculty during the pandemic looking at academic submissions. OUP recounts, “Globally, the similarity score for academic submissions rose from an average of 35.1% to an average of 49.6% across the two measured time periods. This includes a 31% rise in paraphrased content and a 39% rise in identically matched content.” [15]

In October 2021, a West Virginia University found itself at the center of a plagiarism scandal. W. Franklin Evans, the president of West Liberty University, was accused of plagiarizing at least three speeches, including the Fall Convocation address lifted from a Forbes magazine article. [16] Evans apologized for the commencement address, calling it an “oversight.” Evans expressed, “That is a failure on my part. However, that mistake is in no way indicative of a pattern, or a ‘bigger picture.’ It was merely an oversight, and one for which I am apologetic.” [17]

Evans, however, lifted sections of published works in two other speeches, including one for Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Mostly Evans copied passages from journalistic sources, Desert News, New York Times, and NPR, but also from the Smithsonian website and even “a LitCharts study guide for Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow.” In a speech about Martin Luther King Jr. Day event Evans used a well-known Doug Williford quote without attribution.

The Faculty Senate met to review Evans’ conduct. However, Rich Lucas, chairman of the West Liberty University Board of Governors, claimed “this was an oversight by Dr. Evans.” Lucas expressed in a statement, “Dr. Evans has apologized to the faculty and has vowed that in the future he will be more diligent in giving proper attribution when drafting his speeches.” [18] Evans, however, will keep his post as president. The board met and voted against terminating Evans; only five out of twelve wanted Evans dismissed. However, the board unanimously voted in favor of disciplinary action. [19]

While plagiarism can destroy a student’s academic career, when professional writers, journalists, or politicians plagiarize, unfortunately, their careers seem to rebound too quickly, showing a double standard. Sarah Eaton, an associate professor of education at the University of Calgary [20] specializing in academic integrity and plagiarism, notes that the plagiarism case with Evans and other faculty members is not treated the same way as students. Evans clarifies that the paraphrasing Evans did was plagiarism and that universities do not have policies to deal with plagiarism by faculty in informal writing, including speeches.

Eaton told Inside Higher Education, “The reason for that could be an underlying assumption that we expect that faculty and administration already know better if we’re having somebody plagiarize in a nonresearch way — like a commencement speech or public address — many institutions actually don’t have policies and procedures around that, apart from a code of conduct. So it can be quite difficult if an institution hasn’t faced this before.” [21] However, the result of Evans’ plagiarism shows that a slap on the wrist is what faculty get for downright copying without attribution, and plagiarism basically goes unpunished.

Eaton notes in her journal article, “Comparative Analysis of Institutional Policy Definitions of Plagiarism: A Pan-Canadian University Study” how faculty perceive plagiarism. Eaton explains, “Plagiarism remains a topic of debate among educators and academics (Bruton and Childers 2016), and it is not confined to the student body. It is also an issue among the academic ranks (Anekwe 2009; Bartlett and Smallwood 2004; Bosch 2011). Professors often know their institutions have formal policies, but such policies are not well enforced or even understood by individual instructors (Glendinning 2014; Hodgkinson et al. 2016). Scholars themselves debate where to draw the line with plagiarism and what the consequences for it should be.” [22]

Some of the most well-known writers in fiction and non-fiction and even the current President of the United States experienced a plagiarism scandal. In 1987, during Joe Biden’s first run for the presidency, Biden was rocked by two scandals that forced him to withdraw from the race. The New York Times discovered Biden had plagiarized his speeches from British politician Neil Kinnock of the Labor Party and famous Democratic politicians of the sixties, including President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. [23] Biden not only plagiarized in his speech, but he also did so while in law school. In his first year of law school at the Syracuse University College of Law, in 1965, Biden “used five pages from a published law review article without quotation or attribution” for a 15-page paper in his legal methods class. The review committee decided to fail Biden in the class, which affected his ranking upon graduation; he graduated 75th from 85. [24]

In a Politico article reviewing the top plagiarism scandals, journalists were among the worst offenders among the top ten scandals. They listed among their offenders, Sen. Rand Paul, Mike Barnicle of MSNBC News, Jayson Blair of the New York Times, Fareed Zakaria of Time Magazine and CNN, Jonah Lehrer of the New Yorker, and Alex Haley. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Martin Luther King, Jr. plagiarized their theses. Most claimed it was a mistake; some made monetary settlements, while the punishment ranged from suspensions firings to nothing at all. [25]

In his article, David Plotz indicated, “The Plagiarist Why Stephen Ambrose is a vampire,” published in Slate, how often plagiarism scandals occur. Nothing seems to deter writers from the offense; the punishments and ramifications to their careers are not that significant — the more successful the offender, the less the consequences. Plotz noted in 1995; the Columbia Journalism Review indicated, “plagiarists suffer vastly different punishments for similar offenses. Some are sacked for a single misdemeanor shoplifting. Some keep their jobs after numerous felonies. Some are briefly suspended; others are sidelined for months. Some pay huge settlements to the writers they have ripped off; most don’t pay a penny.” [26]

Plotz noted that all plagiarists have similar excuses and motivations for why they do it. They “steal” from good and bad sources, their reasons vary, most are rushed, and as Plotz indicated, “Probably don’t think they’ll get caught. Some are just exceptionally careless.” They usually call it a mistake or bad note-taking and citations. Plotz also points out, “Plagiarists are almost always bright, and they often write better than those they rob.” [27] However, he did not elaborate on why plagiarists pick lesser-known writers because they believe not enough people would know their work and would not know about the transgressions.

Writers often plagiarize, and more than they are even discovered. Most believe no one will find out; they think they can outsmart the public and the writers they copy. Still, the scandals “regularly” when one of the writers pushes their luck. Plotz recounted in 2002, “Plagiarism bloodlettings occur with dreary regularity. Every few months, a reporter or writer is caught copying a dozen paragraphs from a newspaper here or stealing a few choice lines from an obscure magazine there.” [28] Plotz made fun of the excuses the plagiarists used, the same one of making mistakes with their notes. However, most of the offenders could have done the same work with success themselves.

When I started at HNN as an intern, I updated HNN’s walk of shame page, “Historians in the Hot Seat,” which kept track of any historian that faced any scandal; some lied about their credentials or their past, most related to plagiarizing and the consequences. [29] Some of history’s most prominent names made a list. Of the plagiarism scandals, one of the most significant was in 2002, with the Harvard-educated Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and commentator Doris Kearns Goodwin. In January 2002, The Weekly Standard and the Los Angeles Times accused Goodwin of plagiarizing in her 1987 monumental biography “The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.” Goodwin took passages from three books, “Times to Remember” by Rose Kennedy, “The Lost Prince by Hank Searl;” and “Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times” by Lynne McTaggart.

The bulk of the plagiarism revolved around McTaggert’s book. At the time, McTaggart responded, “If somebody takes a third of somebody’s book, which is what happened to me, they are lifting out the heart and guts of somebody else’s individual expression.” [30] According to HNN, Goodwin “lied about whether it was plagiarism (and, incidentally, paid hush money to one of the people she plagiarized).” Goodwin settled with McTaggart after McTaggart confronted Simon & Schuster about the lifted passages. Both Goodwin and the publisher hoped the settlement would prevent the scandal from reaching the public, it still did.

In a so-called apology in Time Magazine [31], Goodwin tried to deflect any blame, “Though my footnotes repeatedly cited Ms. McTaggart’s work, I failed to provide quotation marks for phrases that I had taken verbatim… The larger question for those of us who write history is to understand how citation mistakes can happen.” [32] However, Goodwin was a repeat offender; she plagiarized in her 1994 Pulitzer-Prize winning book, “No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II.” Goodwin took passages from Joseph Lash’s Eleanor and Franklin and Hugh Gregory Gallagher’s FDR’s Splendid Deception. Goodwin never corrected “The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys” in future editions.

Goodwin represents a bad example for faculty and professional writers who plagiarize. It took her only four years for her career to rebound, her 2005 book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” Goodwin took ten years to write. The book was lauded by critics and won two awards, “the 2006 Lincoln Prize and the inaugural Book Prize for American History of the New-York Historical Society.” [33] In-between, in 2001, filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Pictures bought the rights to the book. The film Lincoln was released in 2012, with numerous acclaims, nominations, and even the Academy Award for Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln.

Goodwin was a seasoned academic writer with a doctorate from Harvard no less and never should have plagiarized mid-career; she never took responsibility and dismissed what she did. Still, it did not hinder her career, and she was celebrated afterward for another book. That it did not affect her career sends a wrong message that professionals can plagiarize, with few repercussions. Without repercussions, there are no deterrents for others to plagiarize and borrow without abandon. In 2002, Timothy Noah wrote in Slate, “How To Curb the Plagiarism Epidemic (Or, how Alice Mayhew gets her groove back).” Noah expressed, “Either instance would be considered plagiarism–and dealt with quite severely–if the perpetrator were a freshman at Harvard, where Goodwin was previously a professor of government and now serves on the board of directors.” [34]

A plagiarism scandal marred another high-profile historian in 2002. Simon & Shuster author Stephen Ambrose was accused of plagiarism in multiple books he published. Ambrose wrote over 25 books, including the World War II book Band of Brothers made in 2001 to an HBO Emmy Award-winning series. First, The Weekly Standard accused Ambrose of lifting passages of his book The Wild Blue from historian Thomas Childers’ “Wings of Morning: The Story of the Last American Bomber Shot Down over Germany in World War II,” without putting them in quotation marks, although he did cite him. Ambrose called it a “mistake,” an oversight; Ambrose would write more than a book year with his family and a team of research assistants, and his books were a mill of popular history books. After the first discovery, the speed he wrote and released books was to blame.

Ambrose responded to the accusation in The New York Times:

“I tell stories. I don’t discuss my documents. I discuss the story. It almost gets to the point where, how much is the reader going to take? I am not writing a Ph.D. dissertation. I wish I had put the quotation marks in, but I didn’t. I am not out there stealing other people’s writings. If I am writing up a passage and it is a story I want to tell and this story fits and a part of it is from other people’s writing, I just type it up that way and put it in a footnote. I just want to know where the hell it came from.” [35]

Noah found Ambrose’s statement on the scandal was “more defiant than apologetic.” [36]

Ambrose’s scandal only grew as more accusations from journalists followed, with Forbes’ Mark Lewis looking to make it a story. Lewis discovered that Ambrose’s plagiarism went back to 1975 and his book Crazy Horse and Custer. Ambrose took passages from Jay Monaghan’s 1959 book, “Custer: The Life of General George Armstrong Custer.” Lewis then discovered that Ambrose copied passages in two other of his books Citizen Soldiers (1997) and Nixon: Ruin and Recovery (1991). Ironically, the book Ambrose copied Robert Sam Anson’s “Exile: The Unquiet Oblivion of Richard M. Nixon” (1985) was also edited by Alice Mayhew; the revelation put more spotlight on his editor and Simon & Shuster. [37]Then the New York Times’s David Kirkpatrick found five more passages in The Wild Blue were plagiarized.

Timothy Noah seems to blame the Goodwin and Ambrose scandals on their editor at Simon & Schuster Alice Mayhew, especially once the plagiarism is detected. Noah explains one “expect(s) a distinguished editor to come clean once her authors’ hands are caught in the cookie jar. Simon & Schuster’s initial responses to the Ambrose and Goodwin revelations were shamefully Enron-like.” However, the editor’s job is more complex, and they bear some responsibility. They are the gatekeeper of the manuscript’s publication and wide dissemination. Editors are supposed to detect problems with unpublished manuscripts. Vault describes the job of a book editor explains they “acquire and prepare written material for publication in book form. … A book editor’s duties may include contracting for and evaluating a manuscript, accepting or rejecting it, rewriting, correcting spelling and grammar, researching, and fact-checking.” [38]

Mayhew was a legend at Simon and Shuster and in the publishing industry. The Sag Harbor Express called Mayhew “The legion of legendary editors who earned fierce loyalty from some of the top authors in the United States.” [39] She served as the vice president and editorial director at Simon and Shuster and mostly edited books by political journalists, politicians, and historians, who wrote as the Washington Post put it, “popular histories and biographies as well as the journalistic genre known as” ‘the Washington book.’” [40]

Her roster was the who’s who of the field. Among the authors, Mayhew worked with were “President Jimmy Carter, John Dean, E.J. Dionne, Frances FitzGerald, Diane von Furstenberg, David Gergen, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Thomas Hoving, David Maraniss, Sylvia Nasar, William Shawcross, Sally Bedell Smith, James B. Stewart, Evan Thomas, Mark Whitaker, and Amy Wilentz.” In addition, her Sag Harbor neighbors, “Betty Friedan, J. Anthony Lukas, Kati Marton, Walter Isaacson, Judith Miller, Richard Reeves, Carl Bernstein, Robert Sam Anson, and Jennet Conant.” [41]

Her most loyal author was Bob Woodward; in 1974, she edited Woodward’s and Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men” about their reporting for President Richard Nixon’s involvement with the Watergate scandal. Mayhew died in January 2020, and despite 49 years and the pinnacle of editing success, The Goodwin and Ambrose scandals tainted her. The obituaries announcing her death celebrated her but almost always brought up the Goodwin and Ambrose scandals. The paper’s obituary went further on the scandal in classic Washington Post style. They quoted the New Republic, who in 1991 exposed faults in Mayhew’s editing.

The New Republic’s expose accused Mayhew of giving out the editing duties to three of her workers rather than reviewing the texts herself. Jacob Weisberg tried to reveal the secrets inside the publishing business, particularly the hands-off approach of editors in the big publishing houses, leading to errors in books. Weisberg pointed out, “Writers are loath to talk on the record about how poorly edited their books are because it reflects badly on them, and upon editors who are potential purchasers of future books.” [42] The lack of editing is a well-known secret nobody likes to discuss until a plagiarism scandal or factual errors are discovered. Simon, Shuster, and Mayhew were the dream team authors looked for if they wanted success. However, the emphasis was putting out money-making books as opposed to editorial quality, “Many authors, in fact, long for an editor like Alice Mayhew or Michael Korda of Simon and Schuster, who are renowned not for their editing but for their ability to conjure bestsellers out of their hats.”

Simon and Shuster, other editors, defended Mayhew, countering that she actually took a hands-on approach. Mayhew’s later editing style was far different at the start of her career. Woodward and Bernstein expressed the acknowledgments for “All the President’s Men,” thanking Mayhew for the “thought and guidance are reflected on every page.” Mayhew first faced an editorial scandal when in 1991, Simon and Shuster released two conflicting biographies on the Reagans, both edited by Mayhew. They were Kitty Kelley’s sensational “Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography” and the serious biography by journalist Lou Cannon, “Ronald Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime.” Kelley’s book was filled with “thin documentation, unwarranted assertions, and innuendos,” and Mayhew and the publisher did nothing about it to correct them or even to find out if they had been true. The book’s sensationalism was its selling point and why they paid out a hefty multi-million advance. [43]

Mayhew’s defense only damned her more when the Goodwin and Ambrose scandals were revealed. They made her guiltier and responsible for the plagiarism in the books she edited. However, Mayhew claimed her position did not extend to fact-checking. Weisberg recounted, “Alice Mayhew refused to take a position on whether the contents of the book were factual, ‘That is not my role,’ she told Newsweek.[44] She refused to take responsibility for problems with a book under her editorship, leaving the blame entirely on the author. Cannon found fault with Mayhew and Simon and Shuster publishing both books within a month. Cannon felt he was “undermined” because Kelley’s book was getting so publicity, but he was finely researched and cited. Cannon was even considering a lawsuit, but the publisher decided to settle silently as they later did with Goodwin and McTaggert.

The publisher had no problem with the contradictions. Weisberg recounts, “No one at Simon and Schuster seems bothered by the contradictions. According to Snyder, ‘To publish is to disseminate. Our aim is to present both sides.’” Earlier in 1991, Mayhew’s books also had a similar contradictory conflict, presenting radically different information about the same event, the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama. Bob Woodward’s The Commanders and Kevin Buckley’s “Panama: The Whole Story” contradicted each other, with Woodward recounting the Pentagon’s version. At the same time, Buckley believed Noriega planned to trick US troops into military action leading to 1,000 deaths.

However, it is the editor’s responsibility to ensure everything seems fine and proper in all parts of the manuscript’s text before publication. Especially in Ambrose’s case, if Mayhew had edited the books herself, she would have noticed the similarities between Ambrose’s text and Robert Sam Anson’s book, which she also supposedly edited. However, an insider claimed that Mayhew rarely edited the books on her list years before. She supposedly edited between 30 and 40 books a year, and never mind editing them all, she did not read all of them and did not know of contradictions, factual errors, or plagiarism in the books under her name.

The HNN Historians on the hot seat page and the sheer number of scandals profoundly affected me. Some careers rebounded; however, the fallout taught me to be extra cautious in my academic and journalistic writing. Most academics do not want to mire up in any controversy and would never step in the questionable conduct. However, if there are no career ramifications and punishments, there is very little to deter writers and academics from plagiarizing. As I experienced recently when I discovered Foreign Policy journalist James Traub liberally borrowed from an essay I wrote about Judah Benjamin without citing me in his book “Judah Benjamin: Counselor to the Confederacy.” All this happened just two years after a book series editor had approached me to write a book about Benjamin, who was more interested in giving my Benjamin essay and “clever” Master’s thesis to another more high profile scholar to write.

Traub’s only response was, “I have never heard of you or your book. Nobody stole anything,” despite my essay being a top Google search that can be found by anyone doing a simple search on Judah Benjamin. Traub also liberally borrowed from a female legal scholar, under-cited female historians, writing a book that proved a lack of knowledge of southern Jewish history without consequences for his career. However, he is not the only one responsible. Considering Mayhew’s lack of editing in the books that resulted in scandals, fact-based or plagiarism, one must question Jewish Lives’ editor Ileene Smith’s involvement or lack of it in Traub’s Judah Benjamin biography. Smith specifically recruited him to write a book about a topic he had no experience in because of his high profile and connections. We have to stop giving academics like Kearns Goodwin, Ambrose, and Traub a pass on their academic misdeeds because of their celebrity status and hold them to the standards professors would hold their students.






















[22] Eaton, S. E. (2017). Comparative analysis of institutional policy definitions of plagiarism: A pan-Canadian university study. Interchange: A Quarterly Review of Education. doi: 10.1007/s10780–017–9300–7. Retrieved from:










[32] Goodwin, Doris Kearns (January 27, 2002). “How I Caused That Story”. Time. Archived from the original on February 9, 2002.














Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS, is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) and historian. She is the author of “Silver Boom! The Rise and Decline of Leadville, Colorado as the United States Silver Capital, 1860–1896,” “The Mysterious Prince of the Confederacy: Judah P. Benjamin and the Jewish goal of whiteness in the South,” “We Used to be Friends? The Long Complicated History of Jews, Blacks, and Anti-Semitism,” and the viral article, “OTD in History… October 19, 1796, Alexander Hamilton accuses Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with his slave creating a 200-year-old controversy over Sally Hemings.”

Ms. Goodman has a BA in History and Art History, and a Masters in Library and Information Studies both from McGill University has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies, where she focused Medieval and Modern Judaism. Her research area is North American Jewish history, particularly American Jewish history, and her thesis was entitled, “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Antisemitism, 1860–1913.”

Ms. Goodman contributed the overviews and chronologies to the “History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008,” edited by Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel (2012). She is the former Features Editor at the History News Network and reporter at, where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She currently blogs at Medium, where she was a top writer in history and regularly writes on “On This Day in History (#OTD in #History)” Feature and on the Times of Israel. Her scholarly articles can be found on She has over fifteen years of experience in education and political journalism.



Bonnie K. Goodman

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University) is a historian, librarian, and journalist. Former editor @ History News Network & reporter @