Politics

Barber: Walsh Campaign Not Handling Plagiarism Scandal Well

The Washington Free Beacon‘s Ellison Barber discussed the plagiarism scandal of Sen. John Walsh (D., Mont.) on The Real Story Friday, saying his campaign team is not handling the fallout of it very well.

The "substantial" portions of other publications Walsh plagiarized for his final paper for a Master's Degree from the United States Army War College couldn't be excused, Barber said, despite his campaign's efforts to highlight his military achievements.

"One of the things they did in that fact sheet I thought was interesting is they laid out a list of his accomplishments, primarily military accomplishments, and they sort of suggested there by saying, ‘Look, he's done a lot of good things throughout his military career,' and even if this was what they called an unintentional mistake in citations, you should look at the background of his record and he really has a stellar career so let's not worry too much about this plagiarism," Barber said.

Barber also criticized any attempts by Walsh's campaign to blame it on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"It is not an excuse for plagiarizing, and it shouldn't be considered one," she said.

Walsh, appointed this year to take the spot of former Sen. Max Baucus when he became U.S. Ambassador to China, was already trailing Rep. Steve Daines (R., Mont.) in the polls before the revelations of his plagiarism.

The New York Times broke the story and published an interactive graphic of how Walsh took most of the paper from sources without attribution, including copying "an entire page nearly word-for-word from a Harvard paper."

The campaign for Walsh, a career military man and Iraq War veteran, offered competing excuses for the intellectual theft, the Washington Post reports, and the result was the dreaded "Four Pinocchios" grade:

Initially, his staff suggested this incident happened when the senator, a veteran of the Iraq war, suffered from post-deployment stress. But then a day after the article appeared, Walsh’s campaign issued a combative statement that dismissed that explanation and twice referred to his "unintentional mistake." A comment from campaign spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua said "he’s not a classroom academic—the Senate already has plenty of those."

[…]

By claiming this was merely a case of incorrect citations, Walsh’s campaign seeks to minimize the extent of his academic transgressions. But it is clear he engaged in blatant and extensive plagiarism, in apparent violation of the academic code of the War College.

Walsh told the Times he would "consider" apologizing to the authors whose work he stole, but this news release suggests he and his campaign have not yet come to grips with the extent of the problem. This simply cannot be shrugged off as a simple "mistake." (We obviously cannot determine whether it was an "unintentional mistake," as the statement claims, but on the face of the evidence that one quarter of the report was plagiarized, that seems like a stretch.)

Presumably a lawyer or two advised the campaign that a clear admission of plagiarism would open the senator up to liability or military discipline. But that’s no excuse, especially given the fact that the paper’s conclusions were stolen from other authors.