FLASHBACK: Unlike Today’s Late Night Hacks, Johnny Carson ZINGED Biden on Plagiarism

September 24th, 2022 12:15 PM

It was 35 years ago this September that Joe Biden’s first of three presidential campaigns was embroiled in a plagiarism scandal, one that would torpedo the bid in controversy. While journalists and late night hosts in 2022 don’t seem interested in mocking now-President Biden, it’s worth remembering that Johnny Carson had no problem joking about the Democrat in 1987. 

Here's The Tonight Show star:  



Now on the political scene, one of the Democratic candidates is Senator Joseph Biden. Have you seen the problem he's been having? He went around and made a speech, and apparently he quoted a British politician, took his speech and paraphrased it as his own. And the press got on him and he was also charged with taking part of Bobby Kennedy's speeches. And Biden says, “Not to worry.” He reassured his staff, he said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." 

The Biden for President in ‘88 campaign imploded and didn’t even make it into calendar year 1988. This all happened after it was revealed that the Democrat stole portions of the life story of then-British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock without attribution and appropriated them as his own. 

As then-MRC Research Director Rich Noyes and I wrote in a study for NewsBusters in 2019: “Side-by-side clips showed Biden aping Kinnock talking about his wife being the first in her family to go to college, and about his ancestors playing football for hours after a long day of working in the mines.” 

Here’s a video montage created by the MRC’s Bill D’Agostino: 



Unlike in 2022, journalists and late night hosts in 1987 actually slammed Biden for the rhetorical theft. As we said in 2019:

On the September 18 Good Morning America, ABC correspondent Jeff Greenfield (a former Robert Kennedy speechwriter) said Biden’s plagiarism of other politicians “suggests there is a kind of emptiness that you will fill with whatever sounds good.” On the same show, PBS commentator David Gergen suggested “voters are going to have to decide whether he was dishonest or dumb.”        

Today’s journalists, just like 2022 late night comedy hosts, can’t be bothered to even gently joke about Biden. 

For more examples from our FLASHBACK series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.

Editor's note: This was originally published on September 17, 2020.