Thanks to The Week and Esquire, there are now two more cracks in the conspiracy of silence being mounted by a mainstream media desperate to protect Fareed Zakaria from any fallout over his documented serial plagiarism. Zakaria’s most egregious sins have been broadcast on CNN. Despite the evidence and expert opinion of those who specialize in the ethics of journalism, CNN’s only response to the scandal has been to release and re-release the same happy talk statement standing by Zakaria and his stolen work like, for instance, this:
Esquire not only calls CNN out but lays out a case that paints Zakaria as pathological when it comes to plagiarizing others, including a Harvard commencement address. After linking to what Esquire says is “dozens upon dozens of examples of Zakaria lifting material across almost every platform he’s touched,” the conclusion is:
We have more examples of Zakaria’s plagiarism, but releasing them won’t tell us what we already know: Zakaria’s value to CNN and his other employers outweighs their commitment to journalistic integrity. He’s part of their brand. The network has already conceded his responsibility for lifting material unattributed, because if someone other than Zakaria had been responsible, they would have been publicly canned by now and CNN would be patting itself on the back for its high standards. That’s exactly what happened this May, when one of the network’s international news editors was fired for “multiple instances of plagiarism.” In its statement announcing her firing, CNN trumpeted its standards of “trust, integrity, and simply giving credit where it’s due.”
But Fareed Zakaria GPS is a Peabody-winning show that nabs interviews with some of the world’s biggest names. Just this week, Zakaria interviewed both President Clinton and Indian PM Narendra Modi. In the second quarter of 2014, GPS ranked #2 in both total viewership and the crucial 25-54 demographic rating. The show’s success stands in contrast to the network’s otherwise rough summer, with its reboot of Crossfire on “extended hiatus” and president Jeff Zucker ominously promising his employees that they will have to “do less and have to do it with less.” Admitting that the Worldwide Leader In News had failed to do basic due diligence in monitoring Zakaria’s work–and then stood firmly behind him in the face of mounting evidence of wrongdoing–is the last thing CNN needs, credibility be damned.
In an article titled “Why Does Fareed Zakaria Still Have a Job?,” The Week writes:
Nevertheless, elite institutions appear to be circling the wagons. “I thought it was so far from a case of plagiarism that it made me question the entire enterprise,” Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt scoffed to Byers. CNN emailed him a statement saying it has the “highest confidence in the excellence and integrity” of Zakaria’s work. Only Time is conducting a review, though Zakaria doesn’t work there anymore.
The comparison with Benny Johnson, who was fired by BuzzFeed after Our Bad Media similarly nailed him on plagiarism, is highly illustrative. Johnson also lifted research and language, and did some “patch writing” to cover his tracks. But if anything, Zakaria’s sins were worse. Johnson plagiarized to create worthless and offensive listicles about obvious, widely known stories. It was highly unethical, but not particularly harmful.
Zakaria, by contrast, swiped painstaking research about obscure subjects, such as when he bogarted exact language from The New York Times (see here and here) describing an analysis the paper had personally commissioned.
CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter says he’s “pursuing the story … and trying to get an interview with Zakaria.”
If CNN can look at all this evidence and stand by Zakaria’s work, one can only conclude that CNN is as guilty of plagiarism as Zakaria.
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC