Political plagiarism: Will Rand Paul ever get out of 'detention?'

Sen. Rand Paul says he shouldn't have to stay in 'detention' forever for reported instances of plagiarism in his speeches and writings. But examples of pilfered prose keep emerging.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky . speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2011. Paul is instituting new approval and citation rules for his staffers and researchers in the face of accusations that he plagiarized material from several sources for speeches, a newspaper column and his book.

Someday, the political world may forget the time when Sen. Rand Paul was caught plagiarizing other sources for some of his speeches and writings.

But not now, and certainly not if he runs for president in 2016.

Sloppiness on his part (or, more likely, his staff) is not a hanging offense in Washington. Vice president Joe Biden is not the only one to have pilfered somebody else’s prose – forcing him to withdraw from the 1988 presidential race – and recovered politically.

But it is a blight on one’s brand, no matter that the Kentucky Republican has likened his case to a high school kid who got too cozy with Wikipedia. “Do I have to be in detention the rest of my career?” he asks.

Sen. Paul has felt a sort of shunning. The Washington Times and Paul have “mutually agreed” to end his regular column, the conservative newspaper announced this week.

“We expect our columnists to submit original work and to properly attribute material, and we appreciate that the senator and his staff have taken responsibility for an oversight in one column,” Times Editor John Solomon said. The newspaper got stung by a Paul column on mandatory sentencing, parts of which were identical to passages in a piece in The Week, BuzzFeed found.

Paul will continue to be able to preach (in writing) to the choir, however, via the tea party web site Breitbart.com. Without mentioning the plagiarism flap or his split with the Washington Times, Breitbart executives embraced Paul in making the announcement this week.

“We are pleased to add Senator Paul to our lineup of fearless, original thought leaders," said Breitbart News CEO Larry Solov. "Most of all, we think the fighting spirit he has become known for is a perfect fit for Breitbart News Network and reflects that of our founder, Andrew Breitbart.”

"Senator Rand Paul speaks to a new generation of conservatives – ones who have become the foundation of the modern Tea Party and Liberty Movement," Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of the Breitbart News Network, said in statement. "We are honored to have his voice as part of our community."

Meanwhile, a couple more instances involving Paul using other sources without giving due credit have risen.

Salon reported Friday that “in two 2013 speeches, Paul borrowed from a conservative think-tank without attribution.”

“In his speech at the Value Voters Summit on October 11, Paul appropriated written material from the Gatestone Institute, a think-tank chaired by John Bolton.

“The transcript of the speech has been removed from Paul’s web site – as have the transcripts from numerous other speeches while Paul battles an ongoing plagiarism scandal –  but it can be found using Google cache.

“Paul’s speech draws – without attribution – from two Gatestone Institute articles, ‘The Degradation of Christian Women Under Islam,’ published on September 11, 2013, and ‘Muslim Persecution of Christians,’ published on April 18th.

“While several elements of Paul’s speech were taken word for word from Gatestone, in other cases a single word or two was changed or added. Paul did not attribute Gatestone’s writing or research anywhere in the speech, as it was originally posted on his web site.”

Salon found another example of Paul using the work of the Gatestone Institute without attribution, this time in June in a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

You can be sure that Salon, BuzzFeed, and hard-charging liberal journalists like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow will continue probing Rand Paul’s published past.

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