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Opinion Robert Reich greatly admires the work of Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan

Gawker franchise reporter/commentator/swearer Hamilton Nolan shoe-leathered it to Lynchburg, Va., this week to catch presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders — the “old socialist,” as Nolan described him — speaking to a convocation of students at Liberty University, the conservative Christian school founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell. Featuring a sketch of the university itself plus analysis of Sanders’s speech, the piece is a masterful example of political scene writing, accentuated with some well-chosen profanities whose inclusion in this post would get a copy editor in big trouble.

Robert Reich, the former Clinton labor secretary, commentator, author and “public figure,” certainly took a liking to Nolan’s work. Reich maintains an active Facebook presence, posting thoughts on current events and promoting his upcoming book, “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few..” In a Wednesday post on Sanders’s visit to Liberty University, he appears to agree 100 percent with some of Nolan’s analysis. For instance:

Where Nolan writes:

Upon taking the stage, the very first thing Bernie Sanders did was to tell the crowd, “We are different,” noting that he believes in the right to abortion, and gay marriage. . . . “It is easy to talk to people who agree with you,” Bernie said. “It is much harder, but not less important,” to talk to the sort of people who attend Liberty University convocation.

Reich writes:

On taking the stage at Liberty University yesterday — a university dedicated to religious fundamentalism — the first thing Bernie did was tell the crowd he believes in the right to abortion and gay marriage. “We are different,” he said. “It is easy to talk to people who agree with you. It is much harder, but not less important,” to talk to the sort of people who attend Liberty University convocation.

Where Nolan writes:

His refrain was, “In my view, there is no justice when….” When 15 people in America have gained $170 billion in wealth in two years. When 20% of American children live in poverty. When people die because our nation does not have public health insurance. When new mothers are forced to leave their babies because we do not have a federal family leave law. When we jail more people than any other country, but allow millions to suffer joblessness. Bernie Sanders made the case, as forcefully as it can be made, that these are moral issues, not partisan ones, and that the followers of Jesus—a guy who recommended giving everything that you have to the poor—should care about rampant inequality with the same passion that they care about, you know, other people [doing something that Ana Marie Cox often talked about in her glorious run as Wonkette].

Reich writes:

Bernie went on to make a case that the economic inequality that plagues America is immoral, and should offend Christians in their very souls. His refrain was, “It my view, there is no justice when….” When 15 people in America have gained $170 billion in wealth in two years. When 20% of American children live in poverty. When people die because our nation does not have public health insurance. When new mothers are forced to leave their babies because we do not have a federal family leave law. When we jail more people than any other country, but allow millions to suffer joblessness.

Where Nolan writes:

At the conclusion of Bernie’s speech, he sat on stage with Liberty’s David Nasser, who has the enviable title of “SVP of Spiritual Development,” to answer a few questions submitted by students. One challenged Bernie on abortion, which drew thunderous shrieks of agreement from the assembled student body. He gave not an inch. “I don’t wanna be too provocative,” he replied, “but often conservatives say ‘Get the government out of my life!’”

Reich writes:

He then took student questions. One challenged him on abortion, which drew thunderous shouts of agreement from the assembled student body. He didn’t give an inch. “I don’t wanna be too provocative,” he replied, “but often conservatives say ‘Get the government out of my life!’” At the end of convocation, the president of the University prayed aloud that Bernie “would know that he’s made friends today.”

Bold text added to highlight troubling minor discrepancies. Do these edits confer originality?

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At the end of his Facebook post, Reich seeks to start a conversation with his followers: “Your view?” he asks, in what appears to be the only part of the post not derived from Gawker.

John Cook, Gawker Media acting executive editor, e-mailed the Erik Wemple Blog this statement:  “Facebook is designed in many ways to efface the labor that goes into the content that shows up there, but you might think a former labor secretary would know better than to transparently lift the work of another writer and pass it off as his own for the purpose of personal brand extension.”

The labor thing is one angle. Another is the academic angle: Reich is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. Like other universities, Berkeley deplores this sort of business in its code of conduct.

Reich is on sabbatical and couldn’t be reached for comment.

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