Al Franken Plagiarized Liberal Group's Writings

April 4th, 2006 1:01 AM
As reported by Newsbusters on Sunday (April 2, 2006), Middle Tennessee State University is hosting a journalism conference this week called, "Self-Inflicted Wounds - Fact and Fiction in Journalism: Fabrication, Plagiarism and Confidential Sources" (Al Gore is delivering an opening address.) Here's a question: On the topic of plagiarism, will the conference breach the subject of Al Franken?

In his recent book Pants on Fire: How Al Franken Lies, Smears, and Deceives, Alan Skorski (who has been featured on C-SPAN's Book TV) analyzed Al Franken's body of so-called "research," including his 2003 bestselling book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. Skorski provides compelling evidence that "Franken appears to have plagiarized" passages of his book from a 2001 report on the Fox News Channel by the liberal organization FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting). Skorski's most striking examples:

FAIR, July/August 2001: "The Most Biased Name in News" by Seth Ackerman, writing about Hannity & Colmes:

Even Fox's "left-right" debate show, Hannity & Colmes--whose Crossfire-style format virtually imposes numerical equality between conservatives and "liberals"--can't shake the impression of resembling a Harlem Globetrotters game ...

FRANKEN, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (Dutton, 2003, hardcover 1st edition), page 63:

For those of you unfamiliar with the Hannity and Colmes dynamic, it's a conservative-versus-liberal talking head show, kind of a combination between Crossfire and a Harlem Globetrotters game.

"Crossfire"? "A Harlem Globetrotters game"? "Conservatives"? "Liberals"? Yikes. That's a tough one to write off as a simple coincidence, especially in light of some other "striking similarities of thought and expression" that Mr. Skorski found in nearby passages:

FAIR, writing on Brit Hume:

Fox's managing editor is Brit Hume, a veteran TV journalist and contributor to the conservative American Spectator and Weekly Standard magazines.

FRANKEN, Lies and the Lying Liars, p. 62:

For managing editor, [Roger Ailes] chose veteran journalist Brit Hume, a contributor to the ultra-conservative Weekly Standard and the ultra-conservative American Spectator.


FAIR, writing on Special Report With Brit Hume:

Each episode of Special Report with Brit Hume, for example, features a three-person panel of pundits who chat about the day's political news at the end of the show. The most frequent panelist is Fred Barnes, the evangelical Christian supply-sider who edits the Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard.

FRANKEN, Lies and the Lying Liars, p. 63:

[Hume] also anchors the nightly new show, Special Report with Brit Hume, which concludes with Brit moderating a three-person panel of pundits. The most frequent panelist is prominent conservative Fred Barnes, editor of the Weekly Standard.


The glaring problem: Franken does not properly cite FAIR's report. Rather, he attributes the words as his own. Franken's "Notes and Sources" section at the back of the book contains no citation of the FAIR report. A reminder: Franken composed his book during a fellowship at Harvard. The cited passages of Franken's writings do not appear to meet the criteria of Harvard's policy of academic honesty (cited at Harvard's Department of Continuing Education). In addition, the above passages appear to fall within the definition of plagiarism as cited at Harvard's Faculty of Arts & Sciences (click "Writing with Sources: Misuse of Sources"):

Plagiarism is passing off a source’s information, ideas, or words as your own by omitting to acknowledge that source—an act of lying, cheating, and stealing.

See also Harvard's "Writing with Sources: Common Questions about Sources" (emphasis mine):

4. Am I plagiarizing if I accidentally use a few vivid phrases from my reading without citing them? Yes; it’s your responsibility to avoid such accidents (p. 14b).


Recently, Al Franken advised Rush Limbaugh, "Take responsibility for your actions, according to your values." Should Al follow his own advice?

In addition, at the site (created by me), a large number of errors, falsehoods, and misleading passages from Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars book have been chronicled. Last fall, Franken released a book with the ironic title The Truth. The research of The Truth has also failed miserably under scrutiny.