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Buzzfeed Editor In Hot Water Over Plagiarism Allegations

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Hal Horowitz

The work of Buzzfeed viral politics editor Benny Johnson unraveled further after the Twitter users @blippoblappo and @crushingbort published another blog post on Friday detailing a "half-dozen more articles where Johnson stole others’ work without credit."

The latest examples of lifted text reportedly came from a New York Times article, several Wikipedia entries and a report from the Heritage Foundation.

In a March 2013 post titled "Technically, Any Catholic Man Can Be The Next Pope," Johnson appears to have used verbatim text from an About.com article without providing proper attribution.

Here's the About.com article, written in September 12 by Austin Cline:

And here's Johnson's post:

In response to the latest round of plagiarism charges, Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith told multiple outlets that there were "three serious instances of plagiarism" in Friday's blog post by the pseudonymous muckrakers.

"We're reviewing Benny's work," Smith told Capital New York's Jeremy Barr and the Washington Post's Erik Wemple.

When TPM asked Smith to specify the "three serious instances of plagiarism," he responded with a nearly identical statement — save for one slight difference.

"There are serious instances of plagiarism in this post," Smith said in an email. "We're reviewing Benny's work."

It was the second time in as many days that Smith was forced to respond to accusations of plagiarism in Johnson's work. The first came after a blog post on Thursday by @blippoblappo and @crushingbort, who were prompted to cite three instances of Johnson's alleged plagiarism after he accused another outlet of plagiarizing his story about George H.W. Bush's sock preferences.

In one particularly damning example, Johnson allegedly copied a 2009 post on Yahoo! answers.

"Throughout the London Blitz, over a million incendiaries and around 50,000 high explosive bombs were dropped on London," wrote Yahoo! user Jason B.

Johnson appears to have used identical language. Buzzfeed scrambled to alter that passage in the 2013 post after he was exposed by the Twitter duo.

The post now includes a correction:

The other posts surfaced by @blippoblappo and @crushingbort now contain similar corrections.

Smith gave a breezy response to the initial allegations on Thursday, and even offered lofty praise for Johnson.

"We’re grateful to @blippoblappo and @crushingbort for pointing out these serious failures to properly attribute two quotations and to credit a source in a third post. We’ve corrected the posts," Smith told Gawker's J.K. Trotter in an email on Thursday. "Benny Johnson is one of the web’s deeply original writers, as is clear from his body of work."

Johnson joined Buzzfeed in late-2012 after cutting his teeth at conservative outlets, most recently The Blaze. His writings for Breitbart included an anti-Islamic rant in 2010 that blasted the Obama administration over the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque."

One can nod politely as our President lectures us on the evening of Ramadan, enlightening us as to how peaceful and beautiful Islam is, pleading with us to rise to his level of cultural relativism where we make no distinctions between Islam and Christianity, Ground Zero Mosques or Amish country churches, good or evil.

How enchanting an existence President Obama must have. It is yet another thing to actually live in reality, outside the cozy glow of your teleprompter, your 70-person secret security detail, and your princesses’ $75,000-a-day taxpayer funded Spanish beachside pleasure sprees. In the real world there are Islamic radicals who wish death to us and they widely support this Mosque.

The real question that most Americans are asking is, “Where is the outcry from those ‘peaceful Muslims’ we always hear about?” Where are the protests against these vile British Muslim activists that promise death to those that support the military? Where are the protests against the actions of Hamas or the insanity of this Mosque proposal? There is nothing but silence so far as I can hear.

In truth, Johnson has drawn the ire of many even before this week. It's become a favorite pastime of several journalists to highlight Johnson's past Twitter activity, which has included praise for disgraced late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and a photo of chicken and waffles posted on Martin Luther King Day.

Johnson did not respond to TPM's request for comment. He has not written for Buzzfeed since Thursday afternoon, and Smith did not say when he will contribute to the site again.

Johnson appeared to cheekily address the plagiarism charges in a tweet on Thursday night: