On the July 5 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann called right-wing pundit Ann Coulter "clueless" when highlighting the alleged "textbook plagiarism" in Coulter's book Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum, June 2006). Olbermann interviewed plagiarism expert John Barrie about Barrie's claim that at least three passages from Coulter's book were copied from other sources. Before the interview, Olbermann said "Coulter's latest screech" was "No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction," but "we can debate how much of it is 'non' and how much of it is 'fiction.' " In the segment, Olbermann noted the allegations that Coulter "stole" from such publications as the San Francisco Chronicle and the Portland Press Herald. Barrie likened the examples of plagiarism to "the same sort of things that would flunk an English 1A student."
Olbermann also asked Barrie about a July 2 New York Post report that Barrie "discovered verbatim lifts in Coulter's weekly column." When asked to clarify the allegations, Barrie said, "This is not Ann Coulter ... these are works from third parties that were used without citation."
Olbermann asked Barrie if he had seen "anything in there by her about Jayson Blair," the former New York Times reporter who resigned amid allegations that he fabricated facts and lifted others' work without attribution; Barrie noted that "from my understanding, she pretty much skewered Mr. Blair for what he did back at The New York Times." Media Matters for America has found numerous instances of Coulter attacking Blair for plagiarism and invoking him to attack the Times and score conservative political points.
From the July 5 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
OLBERMANN: Ann Coulter's latest screech, Godless, has reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction. We can debate just how much of it is "non" and how much of it is "fiction." But there's a more pressing issue: How much of it did she write, and how much of it did she steal? Our third story on the Countdown: An expert on the subject says Coulter is guilty of "textbook plagiarism" and has concluded that she's passing off, as her own writing, the works of people at the L.A. Times, the Heritage Foundation, even Planned Parenthood, without giving any of them even a footnote's worth of credit. That expert, John Barrie, will join us presently. His company took Coulter's book and ran it through a program called iThenticate.
Apparently Coulter is not godless, but clueless when it comes to ripping off other people's writing. In a chapter entitled "The Holiest Sacrament, Abortion" there's a 25-word passage straight out of literature from Planned Parenthood. It had been taken virtually word-for-word, it is factual, concerns the president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, but there is no credit given. In another chapter, entitled "The Creation Myth," Coulter manages another long passage, this one 24 words, that is neither hers nor attributed, this time in a passage about the galactic ruler Xenu. She steals from the San Francisco Chronicle, though she did change two of the words, and we have highlighted them in italics, as you see.
But the longest, apparently stolen passage on page five of Coulter's book, 33 words long, from a 1999 article in the Portland Press [sic]. Again, the four words that were, in fact, changed in Coulter's book, we have highlighted in italics. And in Coulter's Universal Press [Syndicate] columns for the past 12 months, the iThenticate program found her borrowing from an L.A. Times article and the Heritage Foundation. As promised, the CEO and founder of iParadigms, creator of a leader -- plagiarism recognition system, John Barrie joins us now. Thank you for your time, sir.
BARRIE: Hey, Keith, how's it going?
OLBERMANN: You have called this textbook plagiarism. Is that because the theft that you have located is virtually word-for-word, or what's the definition of this?
BARRIE: Well, that's right. I mean, we analyze between 50 and 60,000 works every single day from all over the country, from, actually, all over the world. And, you know, in a situation like this where you have that much text used without citation or reference to anybody, and passed off as actually Ann Coulter's own words, that's pretty much textbook plagiarism.
OLBERMANN: The book is one thing, but you have found a column from August of 2005 that had six different passages from an L.A. Times article, and they were even in the same order in Coulter's book. Is that -- if the other thing is textbook plagiarism, is this advanced plagiarism? What is this called?
BARRIE: Right. Well, the New York Post came to us and wanted us to analyze Ann Coulter's book, Godless, and the last 12 months of her syndicated column, and we found multiple examples of this sort of thing. It is -- I guess I would agree with you, it is sort of advanced plagiarism. But I got to tell you, after a while we just gave up, we said "Look, there's enough of it, there you go. You know, we're done reading Ann Coulter's work."
OLBERMANN: We're not -- I mean, clarifying here, we're not accusing her of recycling materials from her own columns in the book. This is the work of other writers?
BARRIE: No. This is not Ann Coulter, this is a work -- these are works from third parties that were used without citation. That's right.
OLBERMANN: The column from June 2005, "Facts from the National Endowment for the Arts," but they were taken from a Heritage Foundation report, also presented in the same order. Is -- would any question of the authenticity of doing this, I mean, people quote other people's work and use long passages in books and columns all the time, under any circumstances has nothing to with a political point of view or the nature of the work -- are we talking about somebody who just would not put a footnote in or a credit? Is that what this boils down to?
BARRIE: Look, I think the examples you've given today are the same sort of things that would flunk an English 1A student, you know, writing some term paper on the same type of subjects.
OLBERMANN: The sloppiness aside or the failure aside, you also say that you've discovered that when Ms. Coulter did cite sources in her book, the citations were misleading. Explain what that means.
BARRIE: Well, it's interesting because as the Post asked us to go through her book and through her articles, it was extremely unclear what the citations were referring to. She had citations, maybe three or four paragraphs later but, you know, the preceding four paragraphs were all quoted from the same source. So, you know, it was that sort of free and loose use of citations that made it very, very difficult to try to determine whether Ann Coulter was citing that material or whether she was just trying to pass it off as her own, but again, just playing free and loose with the citations.
OLBERMANN: In going through the material in the book or in any of the columns, did you see anything in there by her about Jayson Blair, by any chance?
BARRIE: You know what? I've read a little bit about what Ann Coulter had to say about Jayson Blair, and from my understanding, she pretty much skewered Mr. Blair for what he did back at The New York Times.
OLBERMANN: Maybe somebody can get him to write an op-ed and return the favor. Plagiarism expert John Barrie, CEO of the iParadigms Company. Great thanks for joining us.
BARRIE: Thank you, Keith.