Rand Paul: Plagiarizer?

Last week, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow publicly accused Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) of plagiarizing parts of his October 28 speech at Liberty University from the reference site Wikipedia. Just days later, BuzzFeed also reported that Paul copied an entire section of his book Government Bullies. So is Rand Paul really a plagiarizer? Let’s find out.

On Oct. 28, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow publicly accused Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) of plagiarizing parts of a speech he gave from Wikipedia.

On October 28, Paul delivered a speech at Liberty University in support of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli. The topic? Eugenics, specifically in regard to genetic testing and abortion. To strengthen his case, he referenced the 1997 science fiction film Gattaca, in which scientists screened embryos for diseases before implanting them.

According to Maddow, however, who called out Paul’s speech on-air that same evening, “the speech that Rand Paul gave seems to have been totally plagiarized from the Wikipedia page on Gattaca.”

Gattaca was a weird topic for a speech in a governor’s race to begin with, but what’s weirder is trying to be a candidate for president, which Rand Paul’s trying to do, and thinking that you’re going to get away with lifting your speeches from Wikipedia while you’re doing that,” Maddow said on her show on MSNBC.

Politifact further examined Maddow’s accusations, directly comparing Paul’s speech to the September 25th version of the movie’s Wikipedia page:

  • “In the not-too-distant future, eugenics is common and DNA plays a primary role in determining your social class.”

The Wikipedia entry reads, “In ‘the not-too-distant future,’ liberal eugenics is common and DNA plays the primary role in determining social class.” That looks nearly identical.

  • “Due to frequent screenings, Vincent faces genetic discrimination and prejudice. The only way to achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut, is he has to become what’s called a ‘borrowed ladder.’”

Wikipedia: “Due to frequent screening, Vincent faces genetic discrimination and prejudice. The only way he can achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut is to become a ‘borrowed ladder,’ a person who impersonates a ‘valid’ with a superior genetic profile.” That too is mostly identical, with a brief addition at the end.

  • “He assumes the identity of Jerome Morrow, a world-class swimming star with a genetic profile said to be ‘secondary to none’ but he’s been paralyzed in a car accident.”

Wikipedia: “He assumes the identity of Jerome Eugene Morrow, a former swimming star with a genetic profile ‘second to none’, who had been injured in a car accident, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.” Some of the wording here is different, but the sentence structure is strikingly identical.

  • “Jerome buys his identity — uses his DNA, his blood, his hair, his tissue, his urine — to pass the screenings.”

Wikipedia: “Vincent ‘buys’ Jerome’s identity and uses his ‘valid’ DNA in blood, hair, tissue, and urine samples to pass screening.” Almost identical, but Paul mixed up the character names.

Paul is vehemently denying the claims, chalking it up to a “disagreement over how you footnote things” and stating that Maddow has been “spreading hate on me for about three years now” and that his “enemies” are “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

However, just days after Maddow’s accusations, BuzzFeed broke news that “an entire section of [the senator’s] 2013 book Government Bullies was copied wholesale from a 2003 case study by the Heritage Foundation.” According to author Andrew Kaczynski, “the copied section, 1,318 words, is by far the most significant instance reported so far of Paul borrowing language from other published material.”

According to BuzzFeed, here’s what the Heritage Foundation writes on their website, Overcriminalized.com:

This prosecution also reveals the risks of federalizing criminal law. Observers have long warned against allowing the federal government to encroach on the traditional state function of enacting and enforcing general criminal laws. Here, the federal government, through the Lacey Act, claims to enforce foreign laws against foreign and U.S. citizens. These regulations were not made by the U.S. Congress or by some executive agency, but by a foreign government with unfamiliar procedures. If the government of Honduras had actually believed these regulations to be valid, they were free to bring charges. Instead, the U.S. government prosecuted a case on what turned out to be bad law.

Here’s the nearly identical section of Paul’s book:

This prosecution also reveals the risks of federalizing criminal law. Observers have long warned against allowing the federal government to encroach on the traditional state function of enacting and enforcing general criminal laws. Here, the federal government, through the Lacey Act, claims to enforce foreign laws against foreign and U.S. citizens. These regulations were not made by the U.S. Congress or by some executive agency, but by a foreign government with unfamiliar procedures. If the government of Honduras had actually believed these regulations to be valid, they were free to bring charges. Instead, the U.S. government prosecuted a case on what turned out to be bad law.

When it comes to footnotes, the book’s “notes and sources” section simply reads:

This book is not an investigative book. Many of the stories told and information reported represent work already done by others. Rather than endlessly noting multiple sourced items mixed in with personal conversations and research, we have included here other sources of information for the stories presented. Some are activist websites. Some are blogs. Some are reporters. Some are government websites with official releases of information. All of these sources contributed in one way or another to the finished material in this book, and I am grateful for the work many individuals have done in various fields to help expose these government bullies.

BuzzFeed also highlights several excerpts of Paul’s book that appear verbatim in the Heritage Foundation case study. It runs just more than three pages. Several sentences in the book also appear similar to a report by a senior fellow at the Cato Institute Mark Moller in the National Wetlands Newsletter, who said he has never given anyone permission to reprint parts of his article.

To look for answers as to whether or not Paul’s behavior is acceptable, PolitiFact spoke to Bob Lehrman, author of The Political Speechwriter’s Companion and a former speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore.

“When I looked at the size of language and how closely he took it,” he said, “I thought that was really inappropriate, and his defense of it shows he’s either desperate to shield something or he doesn’t understand plagiarism.”

In an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Paul defended himself against the allegations, stating, “I take it as an insult, and I will not lie down and say people can call me dishonest, misleading or misrepresenting—I have never intentionally done so and like I say, ‘If dueling were legal in Kentucky, if they keep it up, you know it’d be a duel challenge.’”

What do you think? Do you believe the plagiarism accusations against Rand Paul? Will these accusations hurt his campaign for presidency in 2016?

About Alex Chrum

St. Louis. Left of liberal. Feminist. Bookworm. Hockey fan.
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