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Dem Senator who plagiarized his master's thesis claims PTSD meds the culprit

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Not the devil, actually, but close: post-traumatic stress syndrome. Well, not that either, really. It was the medication he was taking for PTSD that led Montana Sen. John Walsh to plagiarize the thesis he wrote to obtain a master's degree from the U.S. Army War College seven years ago.

Fox News reports that Walsh, who is running for re-election, said Wednesday that his service in Iraq caused him to suffer PTSD. He further claims that the antidepressant he took to counter the symptoms he experienced — nightmares, anxiety, and sleeplessness — made him into an "accidental" cheater.

Walsh said he made an unintentional mistake and did not intend to plagiarize.

"I don't want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor," Walsh told The Associated Press. "My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment."

A spokesperson for Walsh's campaign said the apparent plagiarism was "unintentional."

"There were areas that should have been cited differently but it was completely unintentional," Lauren Passalacqua said in a statement.

Walsh was appointed to his Senate seat in February when Max Baucus resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China. His challenger is Republican Rep. Steve Daines. Currently, the Real Clear Politics Average has Daines ahead by 12.5 points.

The apparent plagiarism in Walsh's 2007 thesis was first reported by The New York Times in a story posted online Wednesday afternoon. The paper, reviewed by the AP after the Times posted its story and graphics online, includes a series of unattributed passages taken from the writings of others, among them Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Natan Sharansky, the Soviet dissident and chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

All six of the recommendations that Walsh lists at the end of his paper are taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie paper written by Carothers and three other scholars at the institute.

One section of the paper is nearly identical to about 600 words from a 1998 paper by Sean Lynn-Jones, a scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a research institute at Harvard.

Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said that GOP attacks on Walsh are a low blow:

John Walsh is a decorated war hero, and it's disgusting that Steve Daines and Washington Republicans are going to try denigrate John's distinguished service after multiple polls show him gaining. Steve Daines should immediately denounce these latest smears and call for an end to all attacks on John Walsh's record protecting Montana and serving his country.

I was unable to find a single comment by Daines, at his campaign website or elsewhere, that denigrates Walsh. I reached out to Justin Barasky for a source and will report back if I heard from him.

In the meantime, Walsh's explanation for his plagiarism seems fishy. At least he didn't claim it was the result of a hard drive crash. Give him credit for that.

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