Yesterday, a sharp-eyed blogger accused New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd of reprinting a sentence pulled from Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo blog in her Sunday column without any attribution.
A few hours later, Dowd responded to the accusations through an email to the Huffington Post. She blamed the oversight on a friend, claimed it was inadvertent and promised to set things right with added attribution on the Web version of the story and a correction in the paper today.
Dowd acted fast to correct the problem after it was discovered, but the question remains: will this mistake effect Dowd’s credibility moving forward?
The sentence in question came from a TPM blog post Marshall wrote Thursday about Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s appearance on MSNBC, where he was discussing waterboarding. In his post, Marshall wrote:
“More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.”
In her column, which focused on how the media and Democratic leaders like Rep. Nancy Pelosi have handled recent revelations about the United State’s stance on torture, Dowd wrote:
“More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when the Bush crowd was looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.”
In her email to the Huffington Post, Dowd blamed the attribution oversight on a friend. “I didn’t read [Marshall’s] blog last week, and didn’t have any idea he had made that point until you informed me just now,” Dowd said.
She went on:
“I was talking to a friend of mine Friday about what I was writing who suggested I make this point, expressing it in a cogent — and I assumed spontaneous — way and I wanted to weave the idea into my column. But, clearly, my friend must have read Josh Marshall without mentioning that to me.”
Later Sunday, the online version of Dowd’s column attributed the sentence to Marshall and added a correction.
Ironically, as one TPM commenter pointed out, Dowd broke the story of Joe Biden’s campaign speech plagiarism in 1987, so she is certainly aware of the severity of such a transgression.
We can’t wait to see if any one else can dig up evidence of similar wrongdoing in Dowd’s earlier columns. What do you think? Do you believe her explanation?