You would think that the mainstream media would either defend Fareed Zakaria, or out him as a serial plagiarist. Instead, despite a drip-drip-drip of allegations from two anonymous writers at Our Bad Media charging Zakaria with serial plagiarism, the elite media have banded together in a conspiracy of silence.
Finally, on Wednesday, with the help of two experts in the field, Politico’s Dylan Byers (who has covered the allegations and the deafening silence) came right out and declared Zakaria a plagiarist:
This week, I conducted a review of the reports to determine whether the instances they cited truly qualified as plagiarism. I also asked two jourrnalism ethics experts — Robert E. Drechsel, the James E. Burgess Chair & Director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Kelly McBride, the Vice President for Academic Programs of The Poynter Institute — to review the reports. They came to the same conclusion I did: Fareed Zakaria plagiarized. …
“It seems obvious that Fareed was overly reliant on his source material,” McBride wrote. “It’s plagiarism. Low-level. But plagiarism.” …
There are different degrees of plagiarism, to be sure. Case by case, the examples here qualify more as violations or misdemeanors than serious crimes. “Low level,” as McBride said. But taken together, they show an undeniable pattern of behavior. For years now, Zakaria has made a habit of borrowing facts, language and style from other sources without attributing the work to its original authors, and he has presented such material as if it were his own.
After Our Bad Media released reports accusing BuzzFeed’s Benny Johnson of serial plagiarism, BuzzFeed did the right thing: a full and comprehensive review of Johnson’s work that resulted in his firing (he has since been hired by National Review). Other than generic statements about supporting Zakaria, neither of his employers — CNN, The Washington Post — have been anything close to transparent. We’re left to conclude that no investigation is being done.
Regarding the latest round of charges (which to my untrained eyes appear to be the most damning), CNN refused comment. The Most Trusted Name In News instead referred Byers back to a statement the network released last month proudly standing by Zakaria. This, despite the fact the new allegations focus mainly on Zakaria’s CNN show.
In 2012, CNN and Time Magazine suspended Zakaria for plagiarism. Two years ago, Zakaria admitted to it. Today he told Politico:
These are all facts, not someone else’s writing or opinions or expressions,” he wrote. He also referred to the majority of instances as “cases in my writing where I have cited a statistic that also appeared somewhere else[.]
I don’t know if Zakaria plagiarized. I don’t have the training or background to make that kind of judgment, and I’m not doing so here. But I do know Zakaria’s history and that the allegations are serious. On top of that, you now have Politico coming right out and calling it plagiarism.
If CNN and The Washington Post think that they can still demand transparency from others without looking like wild-eyed hypocrites, they are very much mistaken. As it stands, both institutions are the Roger Goodells of journalism.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC