It’s Not Just Scott McInnis! TPM Rounds Up Other Pols Apparently Caught Plagiarizing

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Colorado Republican Scott McInnis has had his gubernatorial campaign nearly derailed by accusations of plagiarism this week. Since the Denver Post first reported the “striking similarities” between a series of articles McInnis produced in 2005 and 2006 and a 20-year-old essay written by a state Supreme Court Judge, rumors have swirled that he’ll drop out of the gubernatorial race, and at least one Republican has called for him to quit.

But through it all, McInnis might just take solace in the fact that some of the most powerful politicians on the planet have been called copycats — and fared pretty well post-scandal.

Here’s a few of our favorites.

1. Barack Obama

In February 2008, Hillary Clinton’s campaign accused Barack Obama of plagiarizing lines from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick in a speech (you can watch a video comparison of Patrick and Obama’s speeches here). Obama acknowledged he should have credited Patrick.

“I was on the stump, and, you know, he had suggested that we use these lines,” Obama told reporters at a news conference. “I thought they were good lines. I’m sure I should have [given him credit], didn’t this time.”

2. Joe Biden

In 1987, then-Sen. Joe Biden’s presidential campaign was rocked after he lifted a section of a commercial by UK Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock and used it without attribution at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 23. Then reports surfaced that he was forced to take an F in a law school course after plagiarizing a law review article. Biden said the incident was a result of not understanding the need for proper citation, but was not “malevolent.”

3. Vladimir Putin

In 2006, researchers at the Brookings Institution found that large chunks of an academic dissertation written by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 1997 were copied from a textbook written in 1978 by two University of Pittsburgh professors. The Pittsburgh Review-Tribune reported at the time that it was “unclear whether Putin actually wrote the dissertation — it was fairly common practice in Russia to pay for such work.” One of the researchers actually asked Putin about the dissertation, and told the Review-Tribune that the former KGBer became “tense” and avoided the subject.

4. Joe McCarthy

According to The New York Times, on Feb. 9, 1950, Joe McCarthy told a crowd: “We are not dealing with spies who get 30 pieces of silver to steal the blueprint of a new weapon” and that “we are dealing with a far more sinister type of activity because it permits the enemy to guide and shape our policy.” Big words — that were spoken by Richard Nixon on the floor of the days earlier. McCarthy’s borrowing wasn’t discovered until years later.

5. Vaughn Ward

A TPM favorite this year, Idaho’s Vaughn Ward merits serious consideration for the title of “Worst Candidate Ever.” Among his many gaffes, Ward plagiarized from Obama’s famous speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Good material –but Ward is a Republican. (You can watch a video comparison of Ward and Obama here.) But this recent plagiarism example might not cheer McInnis up: Ward lost his primary for the right to take on Rep. Walt Minnick (D) in Idaho’s 1st Congressional district.

Got some other favorite moments in political plagiarism? Leave ’em in the comments field below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website?s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl@talkingpointsmemo.com

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