Photo: Flickr/World Economic Forum
Fareed Zakaria reads The New Yorker. We can only assume that because his latest column for Time on gun control, reads a lot like Jill Lepore’s lengthy New Yorker article on the NRA from April. The conservative media watchdog group Newsbusters (by way of media blogger Jim Romenesko) points us to this paragraph from Zakaria’s “The Case for Gun Control,” from Time‘s August 20 issue:
Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, documents the actual history in Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. Guns were regulated in the U.S. from the earliest years of the Republic. Laws that banned the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813. Other states soon followed: Indiana in 1820, Tennessee and Virginia in 1838, Alabama in 1839 and Ohio in 1859. Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas (Texas!) explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”
Compare that with this from Jill Lepore’s “Battleground America,” which ran in The New Yorker on April 23:
As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.
We’d emphasise the similarities, but the gists of both paragraphs make the same point, have the same turns, and yeah, this doesn’t look great for an award-winning big name journalist/columnist like Zakaria. The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out that Zakaria in 2009 had lifted quotes from his interviews without attribution — today’s piece runs without any mention to Lepore. So what gives and just how bad is this? Well, going by The New Yorker‘s Lehrer Plagiarism Scale, we’d say it ranks worse than Jonah Lehrer borrowing from himself (a misdemeanour according to editor David Remnick said at the time) but not as bad as Lehrer making up quotes (which eventually spelled his resignation from this magazine). And this offence seems a lot more serious than recycling a commencement speech, which Zakaria did this year at Duke and Harvard.
Updates 12:46 p.m.: Reached by phone, Zakaria declined to comment about the similarities between his Time column and Jill Lepore’s New Yorker article, however we’re told that he will be releasing an apology shortly.
1:08 p.m.: Zakaria’s column also includes two more instances of similarities to Lepore’s piece, the next two paragraphs after the one cited above, in fact. As the National Review‘s Robert VerBruggen points out (because he took issue with its accuracy) they both describe a Supreme Court decision the same way. Here is Zakaria:
… Robert H. Jackson, said the Second Amendment grants people a right that “is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only one which exists where the arms are borne in the militia or some other military organisation provided for by law and intended for the protection of the state.” The court agreed unanimously.
And this from The New Yorker:
… Furthermore, Jackson said, the language of the amendment makes clear that the right “is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only one which exists where the arms are borne in the militia or some other military organisation provided for by law and intended for the protection of the state.” The Court agreed, unanimously.
Next, Zakaria writes about a quote from Chief Justice Warren Burger:
Things started to change in the 1970s as various right-wing groups coalesced to challenge gun control, overturning laws in state legislatures, Congress and the courts. But Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative appointed by Richard Nixon, described the new interpretation of the Second Amendment in an interview after his tenure as “one of the greatest pieces of fraud–I repeat the word fraud–on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
That quote also appears in Lepore’s piece, though she has a more detailed introduction.
According to the constitutional-law scholar Carl Bogus, at least sixteen of the 20-seven law-review articles published between 1970 and 1989 that were favourable to the N.R.A.’s interpretation of the Second Amendment were “written by lawyers who had been directly employed by or represented the N.R.A. or other gun-rights organisations.” In an interview, former Chief Justice Warren Burger said that the new interpretation of the Second Amendment was “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
1:22 p.m.: Still no statement from Zakaria, but a Time spokesperson has just issued this statement: “Time takes any accusation of plagiarism by any of our journalists very seriously, and we will carefully examine the facts before saying anything else on the matter.”
1:51 p.m.: And from a New Yorker spokesperson: “We don’t have a comment on this right now.”
3:45 p.m.: The statement from Fareed Zakaria, as we reported earlier, is an apology for inappropriately lifting material from Jill Lepore:
“Media reporters have pointed out that paragraphs in my Time column this week bear close similarities to paragraphs in Jill Lepore’s essay in the April 23rd issue of The New Yorker. They are right. I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault. I apologise unreservedly to her, to my editors at Time, and to my readers.”
4:18 p.m.: Despite his apology, Time has suspended Zakaria for his offence. Here’s the official statement from Ali Zelenko, a spokeswoman for Time:
Time accepts Fareed’s apology, but what he did violates our own standards for our columnists, which is that their work must not only be factual but original; their views must not only be their own but their words as well. As a result, we are suspending Fareed’s column for a month, pending further review.
5:17 p.m.: CNN, where Zakaria hosts the show Fareed Zakaria GPS (Global Public Square), has suspended Zakaria as well. Here’s an official statement:
“We have reviewed Fareed Zakaria’s Time column, for which he has apologized. He wrote a shorter blog post on CNN.com on the same issue which included similar unattributed excerpts. That blog post has been removed and CNN has suspended Fareed Zakaria while this matter is under review.”
Though CNN has pulled the blog post, we found it thanks to Google cache. It was posted on August 8th and included this passage which is similar to the Lepore article he has apologized for. Note that it’s different and omits the Winkler reference, but reads very similarly to the Lepore passage:
And it even includes the “agreed unanimously” phrasing, which was pointed out earlier:
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.