Monica Crowley is hardly alone in high-profile plagiarism cases she is in good company
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
It is never a good to discover that a best-selling author and journalist plagiarized even worse when they have a Ph.D. from an Ivy League university and are also the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting Designate for the new Donald Trump Presidential Administration. On Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, CNN published a report accusing Monica Crowley of plagiarizing up to 50 passages from her 2012 book “What The (Bleep) Just Happened” published by “HarperCollins imprint Broadside Books.” CNN says that Crowley copied “columnists, think tanks, and Wikipedia” and made only minor changes to the original passages. Even more troubling her book does not have any endnotes or even a bibliography citing her sources. It is surprising that it took so long for her transgressions to be discovered.
Neither Crowley nor her publisher responded to the claims, but Trump’s Transition Team is up until now standing by their “senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council.” Trump’s team issued the following supportive statement, “Monica’s exceptional insight and thoughtful work on how to turn this country around is exactly why she will be serving in the Administration. HarperCollins-one of the largest and most respected publishers in the world-published her book which has become a national best-seller. Any attempt to discredit Monica is nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country.”
This is the second time Trump has had to deal with a plagiarism scandal. This past summer Trump’s wife Melania was accused of plagiarizing her Republican National Convention speech, which resembled all too closely outgoing first Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. The accusations created a media sensation, Melania’s speech was written by a longtime Trump employee, who the then-Republican presidential nominee refused to fire.
According to CNN among the sources, Crowley plagiarized from including the following Investopedia, The Mises Institute, and “National Review author Andrew C. McCarthy.” Crowley lifted passages from well- known columnists including “Rich Lowry, Michelle Malkin, Stephen Moore, Karl Rove, and Ramesh Ponnuru.” Crowley also copied from the most known news publications including, “the Associated Press, the New York Times, Politico, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the BBC, and Yahoo News.”
As CNN noted this is not Crowley first time is facing plagiarism charges, in 1999 Slate accused Crowley of copying passages from her recent Wall Street Journal articles from another article published in 1988 from Commentary Magazine. At the time, Crowley denied the charges, and it seemed to be a blip on her career, but this time the accusations are far more damaging.
Crowley is as CNN described her as a “syndicated radio host, columnist, and, until recently, a Fox News contributor.” Crowley began her career as an assistant to former President Richard Nixon during his post-presidency years. Crowley started working for Nixon after college and worked according to Wikipedia as an “editorial adviser and consultant on Nixon’s last two books.” Crowley is a graduate of Colgate University and received her doctorate in international relation in 2000 from Columbia University with the dissertation, “Clearer Than Truth”: Determining and Preserving Grand Strategy: The Evolution of American Policy Toward the People’s Republic of China under Truman and Nixon.”
Crowley is the author of three books, two on Nixon,1998’s “Nixon in Winter: His Final Revelations about Diplomacy, Watergate, and Life out of the Arena” and 1996’s “Nixon Off the Record: His Candid Commentary on People and Politics.” In 2012 Crowley had “What the (Bleep) Just Happened . . . Again?: The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback” published the New York Times best-selling book at the center of a plagiarism scandal.
Additionally, Crowley has had a long career as a journalist in print, radio, and television. She has written columns and articles for the New York Post, “The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun, and The Washington Times.” Crowley had a radio show on National Public Radio and now a podcast on iTunes. On television, she has spent most of her career affiliated with Fox News and for a brief time on MSNBC.
Oxford Dictionaries defines plagiarism as “The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.” Historian Stephen Oates writing on the History News Network describes the severity of being accused of plagiarism, “Plagiarism is the most serious charge that can be made against an author; the accusation alone is so lethal that it can do irreparable damage to a writer’s career.”
The History News Network published a page “Historians on the Hot Seat” looking at the scandals in particularly among professional historians including plagiarism. HNN listed 18 historians some well-known accused of plagiarism or “manipulating” or manufacturing information in their articles or books. The historians include: Stephen Ambrose, Michael Bellesiles, Paul Buhle, Donald Cuccioletta, Philip Foner, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Leonard F. Guttridge, Stanley I. Kutler, Ann Lane, Bryan Le Beau, David McCullough, S. Walter Poulshock, Louis Roberts, R. Fred Ruhlman, Don Heinrich Tolzmann, Benson Tong, Brian VanDeMark, and Matthew Whitaker. Additionally, the Plagiarism Today blog operated by copyright and plagiarism consultant Jonathan Bailey regularly lists plagiarism scandals in all writing fields.
Accusations of plagiarism are often the kiss of death for journalists, authors and academics the intellectual equivalent of a criminal charge. Time Magazine recently listed the six of the most “notable cases of plagiarism” They included a politician, mostly journalists and even a novelist. Vice President Joe Biden’s 1987 accusations of plagiarizing speeches and during law school of copying pages in a Fordham law review article which prematurely ended his 1988 run for the Democratic nomination.
Journalism’s biggest scandal revolved around New York Times Reporter Jayson Blair in 2003, where he made up almost everything in half of his articles including “sources, quotes, events” and even where he “reported” them. In 2007, while working for CBS News Katie Couric had issues revolving her web producer who wrote blog posts in her name, where the producer copied an article, the problem was twofold, the plagiarism and that Couric was not writing her posts. In 2012, New Yorker writer Jonah Lehrer was accused of recycling his writing for the New Yorker from his writings for other publications and making up quotes in his book “Imagine How Creativity Works.”
CNN and Washington Post Journalist Fareed Zakaria was accused in 2014 of “serial plagiarism” flagrantly copying other’s work in his articles, books and on television without any attributions. Author Alex Haley even faced plagiarism charges for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Roots;” courts determined that Haley had copied “ideas, names, and direct passages” from Harold Courlander’s “The African” (1967) prompting Haley to make a financial settlement. Of those only Blair and Lehrer’s career suffered in the long-term, but each author whether journalist, novelist or politician faced immediate ramifications that set back their careers or their pocket book.
The problem is academics with doctorates are often at the center of these scandals as previously noted; they should know the most about properly citing their sources and crediting fellow authors with quotations, endnotes, and bibliographies having gone through the arduous dissertation process and even a couple of published books. Academics are often the sloppiest using their academic reputations as a means of dismissing the charges or even blaming it on their assistants. Accusations run the gamut from misattributing quotes, to the worst of the charges such as Crowley copying passages word for word without quoting and citing and passing those passages and ideas as her own.
In the effects for academic like Crowley who has a doctorate can be more severe. One of Academia’s most famous plagiarism cases involved Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin who was accused in 2002 by the Weekly Standard of plagiarizing in her best-selling 1987 book “The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga.” First Kearns Goodwin did not comment on the charges of not attributing sources, but more accusations surfaced including that she paid off one of the author’s she plagiarized. She then admitted the improper citations were unintentional an article published in Time Magazine which Forbes called “self-serving,” calling it all an error.
During the scandal, it emerged she also plagiarized in her 1994 and Pulitzer Prize-winning “No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II.” Kearns Goodwin promised to revise her books to correct the lack of citations. Kearns Goodwin was let go from her position as Commentator for PBS’s “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer,” and for awhile she was not welcome in historical and commentating circles. Three years later, she published “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” which completely rehabilitated her career, garnering her a Lincoln Prize in 2005 and the New-York Historical Society’s inaugural American History Book Prize and 2012 was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film by Steven Spielberg.
Not all authors are as lucky as Kearns Goodwin for many plagiarism high profile cases like hers tarnishes their career forever. Historian and Arizona State University Professor Matthew Whitaker had his career go down the drain from repeated plagiarism accusations. Whitaker was first accused of plagiarism in 2012 over his 2011 book “Race Work: The Rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West” Whitaker dismissed the accusations as amounting to racism. ASU determined passages were copied, but they ended the issue until 2015 when Whitaker again faced accusations of plagiarism for his 2014 book, “Peace Be Still: Modern Black America from World War II to Barack Obama.” ASU decided to demote Whitaker associate professor until a third accusation arise that he copied power point presentations he created for the Phoenix Police Department. ASU then forced Whitaker to resign from his post.
Plagiarism cases similar to Crowley’s happen all the time, whether in academia, journalism or even literature. Many plagiarism cases go under the radar not getting the publicity they should because the authors are not nearly as well- known, in these cases neither does the authors they copied get their due without the court of public opinion weighing in on the controversies, letting the plagiarists get away easier. The higher profile case usually, the larger backlash against the accused. Recent history has proven that not all cases end up in career death forever, most, however, are punished at least for a while their transgression.
Considering Trump’s case with the plagiarizing speechwriting for his wife’s RNC speech it is highly unlikely he will fire Crowley, but neither should she think she will so easily be welcome back to the writing and commentary world once she leaves the government sector. Like the zero tolerance policies, universities have in place there should be zero tolerance to plagiarism in the professional world. If one does not know how to write, cite their sources or have ideas of their own they should not be writing in the first place, and if they plagiarize publications should refuse to publish their works in the future, then everyone would learn the lesson. Without clamping down plagiarism is going to continue and like this, writers would think twice before stealing others work.
“Doris Kearns Goodwin,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doris_Kearns_Goodwin
“Doris Kearns Goodwin And The Credibility Gap,” Forbes, February 27, 2002. http://www.forbes.com/2002/02/27/0227goodwin.html
“Historians on the Hot Seat,” History News Network, April 23, 2010. http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/1081
“Monica Crowley,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monica_Crowley
Alicia Adamczyk, “Notable Cases of Plagiarism (Other Than Melania Trump’s),” Time Money, July 20, 2016. http://time.com/money/4413480/melania-trump-plagiarism-high-profile/
Jonathan Bailey, “5 Biggest Plagiarism Stories of 2016 (So Far),” Plagiarism Today, January 20, 2016. https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2016/01/20/5-biggest-plagiarism-stories-of-2016-so-far/
Andrew Kaczynski, “Trump national security pick Monica Crowley plagiarized multiple sources in 2012 book,” CNN Money, January 7, 2017. http://money.cnn.com/interactive/news/kfile-trump-monica-crowley-plagiarized-multiple-sources-2012-book/
Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.