First it’s Juan Williams blames the researcher. Then it’s Williams blames the “intern.” Suddenly his “researcher” became his “intern.” In the course of one column in The Hill, which was corrected and explained, followed by The Hill carefully investigating months worth of Williams’ columns to determine any existence of a pattern of “lifting,” by Salon and Politico standards, he became a plagiarist. Politico‘s headline this morning: “Juan Williams lifts work, blames the assistant.” And Salon‘s last night: “Juan Williams’ plagiarism problem.”
Only it’s a matter of interpretation. One publication’s “plagiarism” is another’s “honest mistake.”
“Is there anything lamer than blaming a researcher for plagiarism?” writes Politico‘s Alexander Burns on Twitter this morning. As a matter of fact, there is. How about calling something plagiarism that isn’t? Salon broke the original story last night with the aforementioned overhyped headline. Has this happened to Williams before? Is there a pattern? Actually, no. At least not shown by way of example in either story published in Salon or Politico. Williams, also a Fox News Contributor, did not try to hide anything. He made a mistake and the publication did everything in its power to correct it, including being honest with readers in an editor’s note just as Williams was with editors of The Hill.
The events unfold
Williams’ column was published Feb 18. In the column, as reported by Politico, a researcher had given Williams information that Williams thought were the researcher’s own words. Williams reworded it some, not realizing that the researcher had received the information from the Center for American Progress. CAP sent an email to The Hill the next day. But the recipient was on vacation and higher ups were told about it Feb 28. The Hill then moved quickly but methodically and Editor Hugo Gurdon (not “Gordon” as Politico has it) spoke with CAP on Feb 28, March 1 and March 2 and completed revisions to the article done on March 2.
The Hill took other steps not mentioned in the Politico or Salon stories — they reviewed months of Williams’ work to make sure there was no pattern of errors.
“CAP contacted us after Juan’s column came out to say several paragraphs were from one of their articles,” Gurdon wrote FishbowlDC by email. “The complaint was justified and we looked through all Juan’s columns back to October to make sure there was no pattern. There was nothing in them to suggest this was anything other than an isolated incident.”
Gurdon called Williams to learn more. Read more