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Joseph Biden's Plagiarism; Michael Dukakis's 'Attack Video' – 1988

Feeding Frenzy Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr., a U.S. senator from Delaware, was driven from the nomination battle after delivering, without attribution, passages from a speech by British Labor party leader Neil Kinnock. A barrage of subsidiary revelations by the press also contributed to Biden's withdrawal: a serious plagiarism incident involving Biden during his law school years; the senator's boastful exaggerations of his academic record at a New Hampshire campaign event; and the discovery of other quotations in Biden's speeches pilfered from past Democratic politicians.

The controversy became two frenzies in one when it was disclosed that the campaign of Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis had earlier secretly distributed to several news media outlets an "attack video" juxtaposing the Biden and Kinnock speeches and revealing Biden's word theft. The Dukakis campaign at first stonewalled and denied any part in the tape's distribution, but when the truth emerged Dukakis was forced to fire his campaign manager, John Sasso, and political director, Paul Tully – the two who had orchestrated the maneuver. Dukakis himself insisted he had no prior knowledge of their actions, and though wounded, his candidacy survived the incident.


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© Copyright 1998 Larry J. Sabato

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