Yes, Trump pick Monica Crowley has a plagiarism problem

Monica Crowley was recently tapped as Donald Trump’s selection to be the Senior Director of Strategic Communications on the National Security Council. Unfortunately for her, former Buzzfeed researcher (now with CNN) Andrew Kaczynski has been digging into her 2012 best seller, What The (Bleep) Just Happened and has turned up multiple instances of obvious plagiarism. Crowley is a long time Fox News host and conservative columnist, so she was no neophyte when it comes to the rules of the road for journalists and authors. Trump is calling this essentially a political hit job, but it’s definitely a problem. (CNN)

Conservative author and television personality Monica Crowley, whom Donald Trump has tapped for a top national security communications role, plagiarized large sections of her 2012 book, a CNN KFile review has found.

The review of Crowley’s June 2012 book, “What The (Bleep) Just Happened,” found upwards of 50 examples of plagiarism from numerous sources, including the copying with minor changes of news articles, other columnists, think tanks, and Wikipedia. The New York Times bestseller, published by the HarperCollins imprint Broadside Books, contains no notes or bibliography.

Crowley did not return a request for comment. Multiple requests for comment by phone and email over the past two days to HarperCollins went unreturned.

Crowley, a syndicated radio host, columnist, and, until recently, a Fox News contributor, will serve as Trump’s senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council.

So is it a “politically motivated attack” as the Trump transition team is saying? Well… this didn’t come out of the Democrats’ oppo files. Kaczynski made his bones in the political news world by specializing in digging through the archives of political figures and dredging up their past to hold in contrast against what they say in the present. Now he’s apparently turning those talents to the field of uncovering plagiarism.

One might argue that the position Crowley is heading toward isn’t really an editorial or publishing job, so what’s the big deal, right? Perhaps those of us who cover these stories are a bit more sensitive than the citizenry at large, but man… it is a big deal. Anyone who writes for a living knows that plagiarizing the work of others is pretty much held on the same level as a war crime. For writers, it’s just about the worst thing you can do. Steven Taylor at Outside the Beltway explains why Crowley, given her background, should have known better.

The link contains the evidence, which is thorough and damning. It is also of a type quite familiar to me after years of teaching and dealing with this kind of thing: the change of a word here and there by the author, as if that is enough to make the words and thoughts original. Really, to me, it is just evidence of knowing theft: the attempt to subtly doctor paragraphs in the hopes that there will be enough change for others not to notice or to create some kind of plausible deniability.

She has a Ph.D. in International Relations from Columbia and she has been a published columnist for decades. She knows exactly what she is doing.

That’s all true. But we also have to ask ourselves if this High Crime among writers is, or even should be enough to sink Crowley for this new job. She’s not going to be an author or editor at the National Security Council. Being willing to commit plagiarism speaks to one’s character to be sure, but it doesn’t always sink people, even in journalism and cable news. Mike Barnicle’s employers at the Boston Globe once demanded his resignation over multiple plagiarism charges and he’d previously been accused of the crime by folks including Mike Royko. Still, you’ll find him on Morning Joe almost every day being introduced as “legendary” by the crew, so people have risen up to new careers after such charges in the past.

At the end of the day, however, the rest of the world doesn’t treat plagiarism as the same sort of High Crime that we do. And it probably won’t sink Crowley on her way to an NSC post.