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Look Out for That Bus, Ben…


UPDATE:  Looks like that bus was in high gear.  Ben Domenech resigned, effective immediately, from the Washington Post.  You can read their announcement of the resignation here, and note that the announcement comes from Jim Brady.  (Thanks to reader Tom-Chicago for the heads up.)

Well, this isn’t good for the Washington Post’s newest Red America poster boy, now is it?  Sucks when your right wing compadres decide that your plagiarism baggage is too ugly, too immoral, too much of a hot potato for even their political brand, doesn’t it? 

Let alone the fact that your ethically challenged behavior is abhorrent to anyone who writes for a living, regardless of their political stripes.

Michelle Malkin is peeved, to say the least:

But now the determined moonbat hordes have exposed multiple instances of what clearly appear to me to be blatant lifting of entire, unique passages by Ben from other writers. It is one thing to paraphrase basic facts from a wire story. But to filch the original thoughts and distinctly crafted phrases of a writer without crediting him/her–and doing so repeatedly–is unacceptable in our business. Some of the cases occurred while Ben was in college; he is blaming an editor for these transgressions. But at least one other incident involved a piece he wrote for NRO after he graduated. The side-by-side comparisons of these extensive passages is damning.

I certainly understand the impulse on the Right to rally around Domenech. But I can’t ignore the plain evidence. And the charges can’t be dismissed as "lies" or jealousy attributed to Ben’s age.

As someone who has worked in daily journalism for 14 years, I have a lot of experience related to this horrible situation: I’ve had my work plagiarized by shameless word and idea thiefs many times over the years. I’ve also been baselessly accused of plagiarism by some of the same leftists now attacking Ben.

The bottom line is: I know it when I see it. And, painfully, Domenech’s detractors, are right. He should own up to it and step down.

And Rick Moran, of The American Thinker blog, in a very thoughtful piece says:

The first attacks were for some pretty stupid things Domenech had said blogging at RedState as “Augustine” such as calling Coretta Scott King a communist the day after she died (for which he apologized) and making an ignorant remark about lower crime rates the result of a high number of abortions among blacks (although he didn’t put it quite as matter of factly as I just did). He also tries to explain away the remark by claiming he was only quoting pro-life Pastor Neuhaus who was disgusted with using such “evidence” to support abortion. A pretty lame explanation but understandable if not acceptable….

But what simply cannot be tolerated in any venue where the written word is revered and opinions respected is plagiarism. And according to material dug up by several lefty bloggers, the shocking fact seems to be that Domenech is a word stealer of epic proportions, someone who has lifted entire articles from other sources and claimed the words and ideas as his own….

The plagiarism of Mr. Domenech cannot be chalked up to youthful indiscretion nor to some kind of unconscious parroting of something he read before putting words to paper. The examples unearthed so far – and bloggers are finding more examples almost by the hour – are so clearly copied verbatim from other sources as to constitute an unusually good case for plagairism by Mr. Doenech. Most plagiarizers will subtly change the wording of what they intend to copy so as to disguise their crime. Mr. Domenech didn’t even take the time and effort to do that.

I hope that neither blogger minds my pulling an extended excerpt, but they are both, in this instance, absolutely correct — and it is to their credit that they say this publicly. Especially given the climate of "you’re either with us or against us" that tends to prevail in conservative blogging circles — standing on principle in this case is to be applauded.  (Okay, sure, there’s a whole lot of protecting the conservative brand from the lying plagiarist going on here — but we’re big enough to say "good on ya" for at least stating the truth that being a lying plagiarist is a bad thing — the fact that’s he’s a conservative lying plagiarist, notwithstanding.)

For a writer, the biggest sin is to steal from someone else.  To do so without attribution is just plain wrong.  To have done so once or twice — especially given Box Turtle Ben’s tender age, might have been understandable.  But to do so repeatedly — while writing for the college newspaper, for National Review, on Red State and on his own website…well, in my prosecutorial days we would call that a distinct pattern of behavior.  The words lazy, stealing and ethically challenged spring to mind, for starters.

Dan Riehl, a conservative blogger, succinctly describes the entire problem in a nutshell:

Though apparently a co-founder, I would also encourage RedState to think very seriously about his role as a RedState blogger going forward. If Domenech plagiarized as freely and often as it would appear, there is no excuse for it.

No one with a healthy respect for original ideas, or the written words of others could do what it seems Domenech has done. If he’s guilty, his judgment displays a profound lack of moral and ethical grounding. Ambition is no excuse for theft. And that’s precisely what plagiarism is.

Rick Moran is right to ask why it is that the Washington Post did not discover this prior to hiring Mr. Domenach — when all it took was a bit of googling over the last couple of days to unearth a large number of instances? 

Jim Brady will be answering that question to management over the weekend, no doubt, but the Post’s readership deserves to know as well why so little regard for due diligence was given in this hiring decision.  (And while we are at it, Mr. Brady could also publicly clear up the question surrounding Ben’s hiring — Americablog caught a big distinction between two public statements by folks at the Post, and I’d love to know the real answer.)

This whole episode has been an exercise in pathetic and sad behavior all around.  Some things you can chalk up to someone being young and ignorant — but repeated copying of others’ work and passing it off as your own, time and again, is not one of those things.

(And I didn’t even get to the questions of racism and bigotry, now did I?  Wonder what the folks a the White House, his former employers, think about all this?  Especially given the plagiarism issues and Ben’s former work as a speechwriter?  I think someone ought to ask Scotty about this at the gaggle.  I’m just saying…)

UPDATEE&P has more.  Thanks to reader JWR for the heads up on this.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com