November 7, 2013

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There’s the bad press that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has generated through his larcenous literary misdeeds, as he was caught by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, BuzzFeed and Politico cribbing lines from Wikipedia and elsewhere for his speeches, an op-ed and a book. Then there’s the bad press that Paul has generated through his response to the resulting criticism. For instance, he told the National Review’s Robert Costa, “I’m being criticized for not having proper attribution, and yet they are able to write stuff that if I were their journalism teacher in college, I would fail them.”

He also chatted with the New York Times, a session that resulted in this:

“What we are going to do from here forward, if it will make people leave me the hell alone, is we’re going to do them like college papers,” he said. “We’re going to try to put out footnotes.” He said that “we have made mistakes,” but that they had “never been intentional.”

He also told the Times: “To tell you the truth, people can think what they want, I can go back to being a doctor anytime, if they’re tired of me. I’ll go back to being a doctor, and I’ll be perfectly content.”

What we have here is remarkable: Defiance in the face of plagiarism. Wrong response. Have a look at the side-by-side comparison of passages from a Paul op-ed in the Washington Times and a piece by Dan Stewart in The Week. The overlaps are just too strong to provide any room, any daylight for defiance. The only response is solemn, stone-faced apology.

The senator has indeed said it’s his fault. His office has also pledged to be more careful about attribution. Against his defiant statements to the National Review and the New York Times, however, that appears to be an exercise in box-checking. Maddow zeroed in on Paul’s “melting down” over the plagiarism. “Not only can he apparently not handle the rigors of the difficult workload of being a freshman senator — which was his excuse for plagiarizing an article for an op-ed — not only can he not handle the workload of being a senator, he apparently can’t handle criticism of things he has done wrong.”

(h/t Mediaite’s @feldmaniac)

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.