Via Ace, the material apparently went from point A (the Center for American Progress) to point B (the researcher) to point C (the final column) with little alteration, by Williams’s own admission. Just to be clear: Is the B-to-C transaction so routine among pro columnists that Williams can safely use it as an ethical defense to A-to-B plagiarism? The way, say, a congressman might defend a charge that he’s been bribed by insisting no, he was merely “lobbied”? B-to-C differs from A-to-B insofar as B knows he’s being plagiarized, but the fact remains that C’s still passing off someone else’s work as his own.

You know, when this happened on “The Golden Girls,” Dorothy had the self-respect to quit working for the former teacher who took her research and put his own byline on it. Take note, unnamed Juan Williams employee. From Salon:

In a phone interview Thursday evening, Williams pinned the blame on a researcher who he described as a “young man.”

“I was writing a column about the immigration debate and had my researcher look around to see what data existed to pump up this argument and he sent back what I thought were his words and summaries of the data,” Williams told Salon. “I had never seen the CAP report myself, so I didn’t know that the young man had in fact not summarized the data but had taken some of the language from the CAP report.”

Hugo Gurdon, the editor in chief of The Hill, told Salon on Thursday evening that: “CAP drew the similarities between Juan’s column and their report to my attention and I spoke to Juan about it. He went back and looked at the two and spoke to me having had a look and acknowledged there were unacceptable similarities.

“And he gave me an explanation, which I found satisfactory. And I believe there was an honest mistake and it related to the transfer of copy and the use of a researcher and it was completely inadvertent. He was very concerned to set the record straight.

If mindlessly repackaging material that originated on left-wing websites is ethically unsound, how does MSNBC still exist?

I do like Ace’s idea, though, of certain columnists maybe moving from a traditional byline to a “producer” credit or something similar, like “House of X” in fashion or “School of Y” in art. Part of the value in a Juan Williams or Fareed Zakaria column is the fact that they’re widely recognized from other media ventures. As a publisher, you’re paying partly or mostly for the byline. So if they’re busy and up against a deadline, just let ’em subcontract the space and keep the name on the page somewhere. “These Wingnuts Are At It Again, by Dorothy Zbornak, from the House of Juan Williams.” Problem solved. You’re welcome, journalism.