Senator John Walsh had the worst week in Washington, as the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote yesterday, and not just for getting caught plagiarizing his Army War College master’s thesis. His office put out a “fact sheet” that claimed Walsh had survived “hundreds” of IED attacks, and Walsh himself claimed PTSD was a contributing factor to his plagiarism. Walsh’s office had to issue a “clarification” retreating from both claims when the Post’s Aaron Blake ripped them to shreds. Yahoo News’ Chris Moody followed up with a brief interview with Senator Walsh, who faced a daunting election effort even before the scandal broke. In the interview, Walsh clarified that he’s never been officially diagnosed with PTSD anyway, but just symptoms of it.
Two days after Sen. John Walsh suggested he may have plagiarized a graduate school paper because of post-traumatic stress disorder, he told a Montana radio host that wasn’t the case.
“I am in no way, no way, tying what I did to any type of PTSD,” the Montana Democrat said in a Friday interview with KMMS radio in Bozeman. “That had nothing to do with the mistake that I made. … I may have said that, if that was the thought of that, that’s not at all in any way what I meant or said.”
That’s a change from what he said on Wednesday, hours after the New York Times broke the story that Mr. Walsh borrowed liberally from other sources for a 14-page paper at the Army War College. Mr. Walsh had said he was under a great deal of stress following the deaths of members of his military unit.
In fact, Walsh explicitly linked the plagiarism to PTSD in an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday:
Walsh told The Associated Press when he wrote the thesis, he had PTSD from his service in Iraq, was on medication and was dealing with the stress of a fellow veteran’s recent suicide.
“I don’t want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor,” the senator said. “My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment.”
Walsh insists that his still-officially-undiagnosed PTSD won’t affect his work, but there’s two problems with that claim. First, Walsh used it to avoid blame for his serious ethical violation earlier at the Army War College, which he’s all but conceding now. Second, that’s not the issue anyway. The issue is about Walsh’s integrity, and the continuing series of claims and clarifications makes that issue more and more clear — to any observer, and certainly to Montana voters.