Monica Crowley claimed reports of her plagiarism were 'debunked' -- but they weren't

Monica CrowleyScreenshot/Fox NewsMonica Crowley.

In her first television interview since backing out of a White House job, conservative pundit Monica Crowley appeared on Fox News to dismiss allegations of plagiarism as a “political hit job” and claim they were “debunked.”

“What happened to me was a despicable, straight-up, political hit job, OK?” Crowley told Fox News host Sean Hannity on his Tuesday night program. “It’s been debunked. My editor has completely supported me and backed me up.”

Crowley’s claims, however, appeared to be derived from two shaky sources: A thinly sourced National Review story based off of a single Facebook post, and a colourful story from Front Page Magazine, a far-right publication, that cited the same Facebook post.

In the simplest terms, the stories chronicling the plagiarism Crowley committed in portions of her 2012 book, “What The (Bleep) Just Happened,” in addition to her 2000 phD dissertation at Columbia University, were not debunked.

For starters, CNN found more than 50 such examples in her 2012 book, which publisher Harper Collins subsequently stopped selling following the report. The news outlet reported that the book contained no bibliography.

Politico additionally uncovered that Crowley’s dissertation contained more than a dozen sections of text that were lifted from other sources. Some instances lacked any attribution, while Crowley had footnoted the sourcing for others, but did not use quotation marks to identify what text was being directly lifted.

Crowley had been tapped for a position inside the National Security Council before instances of plagiarism were revealed by both CNN and Politico.

“Complete BS,” CNN editor Andrew Kaczynski, author of the original CNN piece, wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. “Monica Crowley falsely claims our reporting on her (extensive) plagiarism was debunked. nonsense.”

“No one has yet to point out a single inaccuracy in our reporting or asked for a correction on it,” he continued, adding, “It’s Monica Crowley v. reality.”

Crowley’s allies in the conservative press, however, attempted to refute the claims.

The National Review published a story on February 2nd, headlined “The Anti-Trump Media’s Attack on Monica Crowley.” It was written by Andrew McCarthy, a self-described friend of Crowley.

McCarthy said the plagiarism reports were “blown wildly out of proportion, to the point of smear,” citing a Facebook post from copyright lawyer Lynn Chu, who wrote that she “found CNN’s splashy ‘plagiarism’ accusation to be ill-supported — a heavily exaggerated, political hit job.”

Chu’s first point was that most of CNN’s spottings of plagiarism in Crowley’s book came from seemingly “shared proper names and generic phrases, or news and anecdotes,” which she said was considered to be “fair use.” She said CNN’s list “was misleadingly long, possibly a calculated attempt to condemn her with manufactured, but false, bulk.”

However, a quick overview of a small sampling of CNN’s examples from Crowley’s book appear to tell a different story:

On Crowley’s dissertation, Chu wrote that CNN “omitted her footnote references.”

“CNN hid from readers that her footnotes gave proper credit to the source,” Chu wrote. “Readers were disabled from being allowed to see or infer that sources were in footnotes. It seemed to selectively delete footnote references (though some were left in) — perhaps so that readers would assume no visible reference mark meant no footnote existed.”

McCarthy, in his article on Chu’s Facebook post, highlighted that graph while presenting a caveat.

“If this happened, it is shameful,” he wrote.

But CNN made note of the footnoting on Crowley’s dissertation, explaining, however, that she “often failed to include citations or to properly cite sources in sections where she copied their wording verbatim or closely paraphrased it.”

Politico similarly reported that Crowley “lifted passages from her footnoted texts, occasionally making slight wording changes but rarely using quotation marks. Sometimes she didn’t footnote at all.”

Additionally, Crowley had sometimes initially cited sources, but then failed to do so on subsequent references that appeared to be taken wholesale or extremely closely from the original text.

Here were a few of the instances of plagiarism included in CNN’s report on Crowley’s dissertation:

McCarthy later wrote that “from a legal standpoint,” the evidence was not sufficient to support plagiarism, but conceded that Crowley had made “missteps” — not exactly a firm debunking of the charge as characterised by Crowley on Fox News.

The second outlet that aimed to debunk the plagiarism reports was Frontpage Mag. Its January attempt to clear the conservative pundit — in an article that ran under the headline “CNN’s Hit Job on Monica Crowley” — contained the following defence for one section of Kaczynski’s report:

“Amazingly, some people consider copying from Wikipedia to be plagiarism. It is an open-source encyclopedia whose entries on controversial political matters are zealously guarded by social justice warriors who prefer ‘wikilawyering’ and using their sheer numbers to prevail in edit wars. Copying from Wikipedia is often like writing down graffiti from bathroom stalls in nightclubs. No one knows if the graffiti is factually accurate or what the motives were of the vandal.”

It’s widely acknowledged that it is unacceptable for an author to copy and paste Wikipedia entries in their work.

Frontpage Mag also slung personal attacks against Kaczynski and BuzzFeed, his former employer, which was described in the story as a “cat video-loving so-called media outlet.”

Business Insider reached out to Harper Collins and The Washington Times, where Crowley served as a columnist, to see if any editors supported up her claim that plagiarism stories were “debunked,” as she said in the Hannity interview. The outlets did not immediately respond.

McCarthy also did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider. Politico did not respond to a Business Insider request for comment.

Crowley also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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