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WaPo Editorial Page Editor Defends Fareed Zakaria From 'Reckless' Plagiarism Charges

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AP Photo / Charles Sykes

In a statement to TPM on Tuesday, Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt didn't sound too concerned about the allegations from the anonymous Twitter sleuths @blippoblappo and @crushingbort.

Picking up where they left off with their reporting on former BuzzFeed editor Benny Johnson's plagiarism, the duo wrote Tuesday about 12 passages in which Zakaria appeared to lift text without providing proper attribution — re-opening a 2012 scandal that led to the Peabody winner's suspension from both Time magazine and CNN.

But Hiatt emphatically dismissed the idea that there was plagiarism in the lone Washington Post piece that was highlighted by @blippoblappo and @crushingbort. Asserting that Zakaria lifted "text extensively from a July 2011 Center for American Progress report" for a WaPo column, the duo posted a screenshot on their blog, "Our Bad Media," to highlight the similarities of the two articles:

"If I'm not mistaken, the newest allegations feature only one WP column, and when I looked at that I thought it was so far from a case of plagiarism that it made me question the entire enterprise," Hiatt wrote. "Take a look. Fareed uses some budgetary information that is also cited in a Center for American Progress report. There's no lifting of language, and I'm sure I could find the same data in a dozen other reports. I honestly think it is reckless even to suggest this is plagiarism."

He continued, "In 2012, Fareed as I recall copped to a misdeed, which he attributed to being spread too thin. At that time he made adjustments to his schedule and commitments to keep a similar thing from happening. We went through the previous few years of columns--I can't remember the software we used, but we ran them through two different engines--and found no evidence at all of any plagiarism.”

Zakaria voluntarily stopped writing his WaPo column for one month in 2012, after he owned up to plagiarizing The New Yorker's Jill Lepore for a piece he wrote in Time.

But after conducting internal reviews, Zakaria's higher-ups at CNN and Time concluded that it was an isolated incident. Hiatt also provided public support to Zakaria at the time.

“Fareed Zakaria is a valued contributor,” Hiatt said at the time. “We’ve never had any reason to doubt the integrity of his work for us. Given his acknowledgment today, we intend to review his work with him.”

Brendan James contributed reporting.

This post has been updated.