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Sheriff David Clarke denies claims he plagiarized in his master’s thesis, lambastes CNN reporter

Watch Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke's full speech at the RNC in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (Video: The Washington Post)
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Before the news broke, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke alerted Twitter that a reporter was accusing him of plagiarism.

“Guy is a sleaze bag,” Clarke said of CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski. “I’m on to him folks.”

Then the story emerged. Clarke, who said last week he will be taking a job as assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security, reportedly failed to properly attribute his sources at least 47 times in his 2013 master’s thesis on homeland security, titled “Making U.S. security and privacy rights compatible.”

In each instance, CNN reported, Clarke lifted language from sources, crediting them with a footnote without using quotation marks to indicate he had used the passages verbatim.

Clarke denied the allegations, saying in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “only someone with a political agenda would say this is plagiarism.”

Fran McLaughlin, Clarke’s public information officer at the sheriff’s department, told the newspaper that CNN has an agenda and a bias. She said the school has a system for doing papers and Clarke followed it.

But on Sunday, the Naval Postgraduate School confirmed that it’s reviewing the allegations. It removed his thesis from its online archive over the weekend, Lt. Cmdr. Clint Phillips, a school spokesman, told the Associated Press.

According to guidelines on plagiarism posted on the Naval Postgraduate School’s website, “If a passage is quoted verbatim, it must be set off with quotation marks (or, if it is a longer passage, presented as indented text), and followed by a properly formulated citation. The length of the phrase does not matter. If someone else’s words are sufficiently significant to be worth quoting, then accurate quotation followed by a correct citation is essential, even if only a few words are involved.”

The school spokesman told the Associated Press the Naval Postgraduate School’s “standard operating procedure” is to take down a thesis any time questions are raised about its validity while the school conducts an internal academic review.

One of the sources from which Clarke most frequently lifted language was the American Civil Liberties Union. He also pulled from a 2013 article in The Washington Post written by Carol D. Leonnig about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

He reportedly did not properly attribute material from the 9/11 Commission Report, the Homeland Security Affairs journal, the Pew Research Center, the U.S. General Accounting Office and former president George W. Bush’s book, “Decision Points,” among other sources, according to CNN.

Some Clarke supporters and conservative Republicans, including Virginia gubernatorial candidate Corey A. Stewart, argued the CNN report blew the attribution issue out of proportion.

Stewart said the CNN reporter is “attacking” Clarke “with fake stories nitpicking words.” He tweeted: “This guy is a hired gun — Sheriff ask him who paid for the article.”

In Sheriff David Clarke’s jail, water was kept from mentally ill inmate for 7 days before he died of dehydration

Peter Shulman, an associate professor in the Department of History at Case Western Reserve University, took to Twitter to respond to Clarke supporters and others who wanted to know, “So what?”

He said leaving out quotation marks, like Clarke did in his thesis, sends the message, “I paraphrased this. These are my words.”

“Plagiarism of this kind of course steals the hard work of writing from others,” Shulman tweeted. “But it also reveals a person who doesn’t take rules seriously, at least for themselves. Not a quality you want in a police officer.”

Clarke, a controversial political figure and enthusiastic Trump supporter during the campaign, said in a local radio interview Wednesday that he will be appointed as an assistant secretary in the Office of Partnership and Engagement, acting as a liaison between the agency and local police departments. Federal officials have yet to confirm that Clarke will receive an appointment.

A spokesman for Clarke confirmed to The Post that the sheriff will step down to be appointed to the position, which he expects to begin sometime in June.

“He’s probably not going to say much more until the official announcement, but he’s excited,” said Craig Peterson, a spokesman for Clarke.

Clarke has been widely criticized locally for spending a great deal of his time away from Milwaukee, traveling in support of Trump during the campaign and to give talks to conservative groups, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

In interviews and speeches in recent years, he has compared the Black Lives Matter protest movement to the Ku Klux Klan, and speculated that it will join forces with the Islamic State to overthrow the U.S. government and has said that anti-Trump protesters were “anarchists” who “must be quelled.” Black Americans, Clarke has said, sell drugs “because they’re uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt.”

He has also drawn national scrutiny over his management of the Milwaukee County Jail, The Post reported. At least four people died in Clarke’s jail between April 2015 and November 2016, including a newborn baby who had been born inside the jail without the jail staff knowing.

Last month, prosecutors said an inmate in solitary confinement had endured seven days without any liquid, lost 35 pounds and grown weak and quiet before he died in his cell last year.

In an opinion article in The Post on Thursday, Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said if Clarke is correct, he is being tapped for her old job.

“I’ve never met Clarke, but based on his inflammatory rhetoric, along with the cloud hanging over his tenure in Milwaukee, I’ll just come right out and say it: He’s not fit to serve at the agency tasked with domestic security for all Americans,” Kayyem said.

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