When BuzzFeed.com reported Saturday, Nov. 2 that “an entire section of Kentucky Rand Paul’s 2013 book ‘Government Bullies’ was copied wholesale from a 2003 case study by the Heritage Foundation . . .The copied section, 1,318 words, is by far the most significant instance reported so far of Paul borrowing language from other published material,” reported BuzzFeed. Aired widely on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” Paul went immediately on the defensive. “I think I’m being unfairly targeted by a bunch of hacks and haters, and I’m just not going to put up with people casting aspersions on my character,” Paul told “This Week” with George Stephanopolous, Sunday morning. Paul’s overreaction suggests he’s guilty as sin of one of academia’s worst breaches: Ripping off some else’s work. Unless Paul sues BuzzFeed or Maddow for defamation, he’s guilty as charged.
Crying foul and blaming “the Libs,” Paul hopes to snooker conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s Lib-bashing audience. There’s been little Rush hasn’t blamed on the “Libs” since he hit the Sacramento, Calif. airwaves in 1984. “I take it as an insult,” said Paul, feigning the kind of hollow outrage designed to camouflage his egregious behavior. Plagiarism shows not just expediency but a kind of intellectual bereftness found in garden-variety con-artists. “And I will not lie down and say people can call me dishonest, misleading or misrepresenting, and if dueling were legal in Kentucky, if they keep it up, you know it’d be a duel challenge,” making clear that the Constitutional “scholar,” often accuses “Libs,” especially President Barack Obama, of violating the Constitution. Paul now admits that the courts aren’t the place to redress grievances and disputes.
Paul’s histrionics can’t pass unnoticed. Saying his detractors call him “dishonest, misleading or misrepresenting,” that’s an understatement about individuals too lazy or bereft to write their own copy. Plagiarism goes beyond “dishonesty,” showing a cavalier attempt to profit at the expense of others’ words. Lifting large sections out of copyrighted material shows the most cynical manipulation of source material. Promising now that he’s caught to make proper attribution is preposterous. Lifting pages of material isn’t about attribution: It’s about intellectual theft. While Paul probably didn’t complete too many papers in med school, he knows that plagiarism is grounds for termination in most work environments. Paul can point fingers all he wants at the “left” or broadcast journalists like Maddow but he knows that plagiarism is serious business wherever it’s found.
Shooting the messenger isn’t the way to resolve allegations of intellectual larceny. Hinting that he’d like to challenge Maddow to a “duel” takes damage control to the nth degree. “You know, the person who is leading this attack, she’s been spreading hatred on me for about three years now, and I don’t intend for it to go away, but I also don’t see her as an objective news source,” said Paul, cleverly blaming the accusations on Maddow. Maddow only reported what was authenticated by BuzzFeed. Highlighting Maddow’s left wing credentials raises credibility issues over the report, when, if fact, BuzzFeed reported Paul’s infractions. “This is about you lifting other people’s words verbatim and pretending that they’re your own,” said Maddow, firing back at Paul’s suggestions of a left-wing conspiracy. Paul seeks anyway to trivialize his conduct. Those that take words seriously know it’s a problem.
Accusations of plagiarism go the heart of defamation or libel, taken seriously in legal circles. Paul’s reluctance to take legal action for libel against BuzzFeed or slander against Maddow indicates that the 52-year-old first term senator has real character problems affecting his presidential ambitions. It’s not the “Dems” that will use plagiarism against Paul in 2016. Whether or not Paul trivializes allegations of plagiarism, he’ll be forced to explain it in 2016. “This is about you lifting entire sections of a website, inserting them into your own speeches, and then passing them off as your own original thoughts. This is something that high school students know not to do . . “ said Maddow, holding Paul’s feet to the fire. Paul’s only defense is that Maddow is a left-wing hack hurling defamatory accusations against the former Opthamologist from Bowling Green, Ky.
Paul’s got a lot of explaining to do about how one of the Senate’s biggest moralists has been accused of plagiarism. One of Obama’s fiercest critics, Paul shows more right-wing extremism than his 78-year-old libertarian father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Whatever one’s extreme views, plagiarism cuts across the political spectrum as despicable conduct. If Paul really believed the accusations were malicious left-wing propaganda, his attorneys would be all over it. Hinting at an old fashion duel sounds good but doesn’t detract from documented facts about Paul’s plagiarism. “Only in Washington is something this trivial a source for liberal media angst,” said Rand’s former chief of staff Doug Stafford. Whipping up more conspiracy theories doesn’t change the fact that Paul ripped off copyrighted works for his own self-aggrandizement in his book, speeches and website.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.