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Gossip on a Gossip-Lover: Alabama Writer Calls Kitty a Copycat

By Richard Leiby
Thursday, November 18, 2004; Page C03

Critics of Kitty Kelley often accuse the gossip-loving biographer of writing fiction instead of fact. Now she's being called a plagiarist and sued for copyright infringement by an Alabama freelance writer, Glynn Wilson, who claims she cribbed his work for her latest bestseller, "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty." His federal lawsuit, filed last month in Birmingham, seeks $5 million in damages.

"This is blatant theft -- it's got to stop. I'm down here, a poor reporter trying to make a living," Wilson, 47, told us yesterday. Kelley denies the allegations, and her publisher called the suit "meritless."


"The Family" author Kitty Kelley, on the plagiarism hot seat. (Gino Domenico - AP)


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At issue are passages and quotations in Kelley's book focusing mainly on George Bush's activities in 1972, when he was in the National Guard and working on the campaign of U.S. Senate hopeful Winton Blount of Alabama. Wilson says the material originally appeared on his blog, Southerner Daily News, in a February 2004 article titled "George W. Bush's Lost Year in 1972 Alabama." Some of the wording and details in Kelley's book -- such as Dubya's reputed fondness at the time for Jim Beam, beer, burgers and "fistfuls of peanuts" -- appear to be identical to Wilson's account.

"It's a cut-and-paste job, man," he said. "When you lift whole passages, you have to put it in quotes. If they had just rewritten it and given me credit, that's a different story. . . . I taught journalism for nine years -- I know what plagiarism is."

But Kelley told us yesterday: "I don't see it as plagiarism at all. I think that's such an overreach." The book's chapter notes cite Wilson's piece in a long list of sources. "As a freelance writer myself," she said, "I would never knowingly not credit another writer. I just would never do that."

As for Wilson's claim of copyright infringement, Kelley said the case comes down to "219 words out of a 4,200-word article" by Wilson, adding: "I really think this falls under the legal concept of fair use."

At Great American Smokeout, Smokey's In

• Motown legend Smokey Robinson -- who, nickname aside, is a vehement foe of smoking -- arrived in Washington yesterday to rally support for the American Cancer Society's 28th Great American Smokeout today. "I think it's such an atrocity that people are still smoking," he told us. "I just feel bad that people are still smoking, but we're pushing toward a smoke-free environment."

At noon, Robinson, the Smokeout's honorary national chairman, will join D.C. Council members Adrian Fenty and Kathy Patterson and member-elect Kwame Brown at Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street NW, a smoke-free eatery. They're seeking to renew legislation that would ban smoking in city workplaces, including bars, nightclubs and restaurants. For Robinson the cause is deeply personal: His oldest sister, who raised him, died of lung cancer, as did his brother-in-law. The 64-year-old singer also blames direct and secondhand smoke for the deaths of fellow performers.

"In the last 20 years or so, I have buried 20 to 30 relatives and friends who died from lung cancer from smoking," he said, citing Motown's Mary Wells and Eddie Kendricks among them.

At 3, William Robinson got his pet name -- "Smokey Joe" -- from a favorite uncle who smoked, but the moniker had nothing to do with tobacco. "I loved cowboys and that was just a cowboy name for me," he explained.

We had to ask: Have you ever smoked?

"We're talking cigarettes here," he replied with a hearty laugh.

Nope, he's never smoked them.

Smoked anything else?

He laughed again, then assured us, "But I didn't inhale."

Christopher Buckley, Cashing In on the Clintons

• Author Christopher Buckley can no longer claim that his most impressive accomplishment to date is a 10 1/2-hour lunch at Cafe Milano with Vanity Fair scribe Christopher Hitchens (as he does on the jacket of his latest satire, "Florence of Arabia"). On Tuesday, Buckley picked up the $5,000 Thurber Prize for American Humor for his 2003 book, "No Way to Treat a First Lady," spoofing Bill and Hillary Clinton's marriage.

"The Thurber Prize -- and we sold the Romanian rights to the book for a sum in the high three figures. All in one day. My head is still spinning," Buckley, 52, told us from his Washington home yesterday. But as for literary payoffs from Clinton-era follies, he said with a sigh: "This may be the very last." The award coincides with opening revelries for the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, and the Republican writer intends to make a donation: "I'll send them the Romanian edition."

Meanwhile, fans can catch Buckley at 8 tonight on the Georgetown campus, speaking with fellow New Yorker magazine humorists David Sedaris and Andy Borowitz as part of the magazine's college tour. Their topic: "Writing Funny." Tickets to the panel at Gaston Hall are $10; $5 for students.

SQUIBS

• Drool alert: "Alfie" star Jude Law, who's apparently quite a looker, is anointed "Sexiest Man Alive" by People magazine in its Friday issue. Meanwhile, Us Weekly names Jesse Metcalfe, who plays a teenage gardener on "Desperate Housewives," as the sexiest man on television. But where, we ask, is the sexiest politician?

• "Won't you be my neighbor?" quipped Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to Senate Minority Leader-designee Harry Reid at a dinner Tuesday honoring the upcoming 109th Congress in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court. It was an inside joke for those who'd seen a quote in the New York Times from Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who said attacking Reid would be like "attacking Mr. Rogers."

With Anne Schroeder


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