It's a weighty charge, plagiarism. But your credibility in making it tends to dissipate when you do so on a site founded and run by an alleged serial plagiarist.
Arianna Huffington has been accused of lifting portions of a number of her books from other authors, and in one case had to dole out a 5-figure settlement to put plagiarism charges to rest. Her site has also taken heat from celebrities whose names appear on bylines on the site, but who didn't actually write those posts' contents.
In short, the Huffington Post is not the forum in which to credibly make plagiarism accusations. And yet there was blogger Ryan Grim doing just that: "George Bush Book 'Decision Points' Lifted From Advisers' Books," a headline claims.
Huffington was accused of plagiarism for copying material for her book Maria Callas (1981); the claims were settled out of court in 1981, with Callas biographer Gerald Fitzgerald being paid "in the low five figures."
Lydia Gasman, an art history professor at the University of Virginia, claimed that Huffington’s 1988 biography of Pablo Picasso, Picasso: Creator and Destroyer, included themes similar to those in her unpublished four-volume Ph.D. thesis. "What she did was steal twenty years of my work," Gasman told Maureen Orth in 1994. Gasman did not file suit.
Maureen Orth also reported that Huffington "borrowed heavily for her 1993 book, The Gods of Greece."
HuffPo is one big glass house from which to toss stones at a former president.
But wait, there's more. In 2006, actor George Clooney claimed that the Huffington Post had attributed a column to him that he had never written. The site had cobbled together statements Clooney made in television appearances years earlier, and created a column - written by Huffington Post staff - under the actor's name.
Far from backing down from the practice, Arianna proceeded to threaten Clooney:
"She said some things that I won't share, but she did tell me that this could be bad for me -- bad for my career. Well, screw you!" the movie star told me yesterday about a conversation he had with the doyenne of Huffingtonpost.com. "I'm not going to be threatened by Arianna Huffington!"...
But Huffington insisted (and forwarded me E-mails that seemed to back her up) that she believed she had explicit permission from one of Clooney's PR reps to publish his disparate quotes as a single piece of writing. "This was a misunderstanding," she told me yesterday, as the disputed blog was removed from her Web site.
Clooney told me: "Nobody has ever written an op-ed piece for me. If I say I've written something, I've written it. When I go to the Oscars, I write everything I say...I stand by what I do, but I'm very cautious not to take giant steps onto soapboxes because I think they're polarizing."
Clooney said that when he demanded a disclaimer from Huffington, she refused. "She told me that it's a big no-no in the blogosphere, where people are supposed to write their own pieces."
If the Huffington Post is so worried about plagiarism by public figures, perhaps it's time for some introspection.