If you were a high-profile politician caught plagiarizing, would you:
- a) say something like “my bad”, apologize profusely, promise to sin no more and quietly move on, hoping reporters would do likewise or
- b) acknowledge that mistakes were made, then lash out at the news media?
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., went with the second option.
In an interview with the National Review’s Robert Costa, the senator owned up to borrowing liberally from the work of others for his speeches and op-ed pieces. (The Washington Times on Tuesday said it was dropping his weekly column as a result.)
But then Paul tried turning the tables on the journalists who have hounded him for publishing pieces under his name or giving speeches which used lengthy passages of others’ words without any attribution.
“I’m being criticized for not having proper attribution, and yet they are able to write stuff that if I were their journalism teacher in college, I would fail them,” Paul told Costa.
That hypothetical seems a little awkward — someone who’s admitting to plagiarism imagining himself a journalism teacher.
Paul seemed particularly peeved by reporting on a speech he gave at Liberty University in Virginia last October. Journalists didn’t accurately convey the theme of his speech so far as he was concerned, which explains the journalism-teacher gibe he aimed at the media.
The senator, who appears to be preparing for a run at the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, also mused: “I feel like if I could just go to detention after school for a couple days, then everything would be okay. But do I have to be in detention for the rest of my career?”
If Vice President Biden’s career is any guide, the answer to that would be “no.” Paul might take some comfort from how Biden was able to rehabilitate himself after revelations emerged during the 1988 presidential campaign that he had repeatedly plagiarized other politicians.
It’s proof positive that plagiarism is certainly not a political career-ender.
Paul has seen in his own family how a politician can get past controversy about writings attached to his name. Ron Paul, the former Republican congressman from Texas and the senator’s father, came under fire for old newsletters published under his name that contained racist, anti-gay and anti-Semitic statements.
The elder Paul distanced himself from the objectionable material by saying someone else wrote it and, beyond that, claimed he didn’t even know about it until someone pointed out to him.
Which leads to this irony: assuming you accept the elder Paul’s explanation, both father and son got in trouble for words they didn’t write.