July 09, 2006

Plagiarism Watch: Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter

The subject of the latest plagiarism scandal is right-wing bitch-goddess Ann Coulter. The New York Post has reported that John Barrie, who operates the ithenticate plagiarism-detection service, claims to have found at least three instances of "textbook plagiarism" in Coulter's book Godless: the Church of Liberalism and additional instances in Coulter's syndicated weekly column. For example, he says that Coulter's Aug. 3, 2005, column, "Read My Lips: No New Liberals," about Supreme Court Justice David Souter, includes six passages, ranging from 10 to 48 words each, that appeared 15 years earlier in the same order in a Los Angeles Times article entitled "Liberals Leery as New Clues Surface on Souter's Views." If true, that can hardly be attributed to chance.

According to Editor and Publisher, Universal Press, Coulter's publisher, has said that they will look into the allegations. Neither they nor we currently have access to Barrie's report as it is available only to those who subscribe to his service.

Coulter has issued an un-rebuttal, in which she whines about what a bad newspaper the New York Post is but does not respond to the charges. That does not look very good for her. On the other hand, there is some question as to whether Barrie has identified real instances of plagiarism. Blogger Thorley Winston compared the L.A. Times article about Justice Souter (to which I do not have access) with Coulter's column and concludes, in my opinion correctly, that Coulter is not, in this instance, guilty of plagiarism. Coulter may well have drawn from the article, but much of the similarity consists of properly attributed quotations from Souter, and the rest is at the level one might expect in a factual account of the same material. There are, after all, only so many ways to say "Souter said this about that". According to Winston, pace Barrie, the passages are not in the same order in Coulter's column as in the L.A. Times article.

Posted by Bill Poser at July 9, 2006 05:20 PM