A Democratic group in Massachusetts has accused Senator Scott Brown (R.-Mass.) of plagiarism, pointing to remarks on his Web site that appear to have been directly lifted from former North Carolina senator Elizabeth Dole.
Brown isn’t the first politician to be accused of lifting words, but he may be the first to have the following excuse, given to the Boston Globe via his spokesperson, John Donnelly:
Senator Dole's Web site served as one of the models for Senator Brown's Web site when he first took office. During construction of the site, the content on this particular page was inadvertently transferred without being rewritten.
Before being removed yesterday, Brown’s message to students, posted to his Web site, read:
I was raised to believe that there are no limits to individual achievement and no excuses to justify indifference. From an early age, I was taught that success is measured not in material accumulations, but in service to others. I was encouraged to join causes larger than myself, to pursue positive change through a sense of mission, and to stand up for what I believe.
The message had omitted an opening line that read “I am Mary and John Hanford’s daughter,” but were otherwise the exact same words as remarks delivered by Dole at her campaign kickoff in 2002.
Brown is not the first politician to come under fire for using words that aren’t his own.
Vice President Biden also had a bit of a plagiarism problem when he was senator, after it was discovered he had lifted lines from a law review article for a paper he wrote in his first year at Syracuse University law school.
At the time, Biden said he had done nothing “malevolent.” His excuse: He misunderstood the need to cite sources carefully.
During President Obama’s presidential campaign in February 2008, now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Obama of plagiarizing a speech given by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick in 2006. Obama’s speech, given in Wisconsin, included quotes from speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, the same quotes Patrick had selected, in the same order. Watch the similarity:
Obama apologized, saying the two had worked on the speech together, and that he should have given Deval credit. Deval dismissed the incident, saying it had been overblown.
Former president John F. Kennedy had his legacy tarnished by allegations that his senior thesis was plagiarized and his Pulitzer-prize winning biography, “Profiles in Courage,” was ghostwritten.
In the book “Jack: The Struggles of John F. Kennedy,” Herbert Parmet alleged that a a great deal of the book was written by speechwriter Ted Sorensen. By the time the allegations came out, JFK was no longer alive to defend himself.
Outside of the U.S., German politicians Silvana Koch-Mehrin and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg are both believed to have separately plagiarized their doctoral theses.
While Guttenberg initially called the allegations “fanciful,” mounting pressure later forced him to resign. As for Koch-Mehrin, her PhD was revoked and she resigned, saying she hoped her party “could have a fresh start.”
And one politician may have had similar lifting woes to Brown. When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008 was accused of copying a speech from a speech given by Australian Prime Minister John Howard a few days earlier, the prime minister blamed the plagiarism on his speechwriter, Owen Lippert, who resigned shortly thereafter and said Harper had known nothing.