Any whiff of scandal from any American institution and you can bet CNN and The Washington Post will demand accountability, an investigation and full transparency. The ongoing NFL scandal, for example. In-between calling for his head, both the Post and CNN are demanding full transparency from commissioner Roger Goodell. But when it comes to a serious plagiarism scandal in their own house, CNN and the Post dummy up into a bunker mode that makes Goodell look like a singing canary.
After Politico and two widely respected journalism experts declared Fareed Zakaria a plagiarist Wednesday, Breitbart News reached out to his employers at The Washington Post and CNN. We wanted to know if the charges were now going to be taken seriously. If not, why not? If CNN and the Post don’t consider the examples dug up by Our Bad Media to be plagiarism, does Zakaria’s behavior still meet editorial guidelines? And so on.
The Washington Post ignored our inquiry.
CNN sent Breitbart News the exact same statement Politico received a week or two before Our Bad Media released its latest and most damning allegations:
CNN has the highest confidence in the excellence and integrity of Fareed Zakaria’s work. In 2012, we conducted an extensive review of his original reporting for CNN, and beyond the initial incident for which he was suspended and apologized for, found nothing that violated our standards. In the years since we have found nothing that gives us cause for concern.
After he admitted to plagiarizing from The New Yorker, CNN was one of the outlets that suspended Zakaria in August of 2012. Our Bad Media claims to have found two dozen examples of plagiarism in the scripts for the CNN weekend show “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” About a half-dozen of these occurrences happened after the suspension.
Outside of the two journalism ethics experts Politico found, Steve Buttry, a writer with a long career in journalism ethics, has also weighed in to call Zakaria’s plagiarism plagiarism:
After “and yet,” the next 34 words of Zakaria’s passage are identical to the Times passage, except that he cut the descriptor “well-known.” And he used a percentage sign instead of spelling out “percent.” Then, notably, he differs from the Times by cutting out the source of the analysis. Zakaria didn’t cite the Times, Leonhardt or Capital IQ. He presented these facts as his own analysis or common knowledge, and didn’t attribute. Then the final 11 words are again a ripoff from the Times, directly, word for word, except for adding the word “of.”
When two paragraphs are nearly identical, that’s high-level plagiarism. The 40-plus other accounts of sneaky plagiarism don’t lighten the offense. They compound it.
Apparently, because Zakaria is cherished member of the elite leftwing media, The Washington Post and CNN feel that silence will make it all go away. So far that appears to be the case. Other than Politico’s Dylan Byers, Mediaite, and Poynter, no one other than conservative media outlets have been willing to report or dig into this.
The sin here isn’t just being committed by Zakaria, CNN and The Washington Post. The fact that there is a conspiracy of silence across the entire media landscape is just as sinful … and revealing.
I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again: I do not have the expertise to judge what is and is not plagiarism. But enough people who do are calling what Zakaria did plagiarism, enough that the only responsible response is for the media-at-large to demand a transparent investigation from CNN and The Washington Post.
If CNN and the Post want to defend Zakaria and attempt to explain away what he did, fine. But bunkering up in the hope that all your elite media pals will play along with the cover-up is a huge ethical stain on the entire institution and profession of journalism.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC