2008: Biden’s Speech Honoring Foreign Leader Plagiarized Time Magazine

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., speaks at College Convention 2008 in Manchester, N.H., Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
AP Photo/Cheryl Senter

During his final year in the Senate, Joe Biden inserted a speech into the Congressional Record praising a foreign dignitary with language that appears to have been plagiarized, in part, from a well-known national magazine.

In early 2008, fresh off seeing his second campaign for president falter after a disastrous showing in the Iowa Caucuses, Biden returned to the Senate and his chairmanship of the chamber’s Foreign Relations Committee. As part of that role, then-Senator Biden introduced a number of congressional resolutions honoring foreign leaders, especially those representing America’s strategic allies.

One such resolution, introduced in February of that year, honored South Korea’s newly-elected president, Lee Myung-Bak, who would be inaugurated later that month. Biden’s resolution, likely authored by members of either his Senate staff or his aides on the foreign relations committee, praised Lee as an innovative leader, who would be a boon to the already strong relationship between the U.S. and South Korea.

When introducing the measure, Biden inserted a speech prepared by his staff into the Congressional Record congratulating Lee and arguing that “just as [South] Korea is no ordinary ally,” the incoming president “is no ordinary South Korean politician.”

“He was elected Mayor of Seoul, Korea’s capital and largest city, on a platform stressing a balance between economic development and environmental protection,”  the remarks state, giving a brief biographical description of the foreign dignitary.

The portion that followed, however, however, appears to have been plagiarized, in part, from an article on Lee that was published only months prior in Time magazine:

He told the city’s people that he would remove the elevated highway that ran through the heart of Seoul and restore the buried Cheonggyecheon stream–an urban waterway that Lee himself had helped pave over in the 1960s. His opponents insisted that the plan would cause traffic chaos and cost billions. Three years later, Cheonggyecheon was reborn, changing the face of Seoul. Lee also revamped the city’s transportation system, adding clean rapid-transit buses.

The phrasing is nearly identical to that used by Bryan Walsh, then a staff writer at Time, in his October 2007 short profile of Lee for the magazine’s “Heroes of the Environment” spotlight:

He told the city’s people that he would tear out the jam-packed elevated highway that ran through the heart of Seoul and restore the buried Cheonggyecheon stream — a foul urban waterway that Lee himself had helped pave over in the 1960s. His opponents insisted that the plan would cause traffic chaos and cost billions, but the voters elected Lee. Three years later, Cheonggyecheon was reborn, an environmentally friendly civic jewel that has changed the face of Seoul. More quietly, Lee also revamped the city’s transportation system, adding clean rapid-transit buses.

It is unclear if Biden or his office were aware of the similarities at the time the speech was inserted into the Congressional Record. The former vice president’s campaign did not return requests for comment on this story.

The revelations regarding the 2008 speech come back into focus as Biden has been accused by President Donald Trump in recent days of heavily cribbing his administration’s economic agenda. The allegations center around the presumptive Democrat nominee’s new “Buy American” plan to boost domestic manufacturing. Trump and his allies claim much of what Biden is proposing to do has already been implemented via executive order by the incumbent.

Although such attacks are not necessarily accurate, especially as Biden’s proposal is anchored around a new $400 billion federal procurement program, they do underscore the former vice president’s long history of plagiarism.

During his first presidential run for the 1988 Democrat nomination, Biden had to drop out because of numerous instances in which he was caught plagiarizing. Most notably, on at least two different occasions, he lifted portions of a speech by then-British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. Likewise, Biden also used without attribution sentences from famous speeches by the late senators Hubert Humphrey and Robert F. Kennedy.

More troubling, it also emerged that Biden had been caught plagiarizing while attending Syracuse University Law School in the early 1960s. For a legal methods course, Biden lifted five pages from a published law review article and submitted them “without quotation or citation” in his own 15-page paper.

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