Beloved I Love The ’80s star Oliver North benefits from America’s notorious generosity towards convicted felons, having found himself a profitable niche giving lectures and appearing on Fox News and writing weepy syndicated columns about military heroism, despite that one time when he sort of kinda sold weapons to America’s enemies and funneled the profits to guerrilla thugs. But has finally gone too far this time and committed the ultimate sin in polite society — plagiarism? Is this the end of Oliver North? Ha ha, no, don’t worry, he’s found a convenient Medal of Honor winner to blame this one on.
Let’s count the layers of ways that Ollie North almost certainly does not write his own column! First of all, being one of these high-profile columnists is a pretty cushy gig, and, while we can’t say this is true for sure, let’s just say that it is true for pretty sure that, like everyone else in his position, North has “researchers” mostly put his column together for him, every week. Then, for this last Memorial Day, Ollie gave his researchers some “time off” by having them use a large and inspiring chunk of text about the bonds between soldiers that one of his veteran friends, Medal of Honor winner Sammy L. Davis emailed to him (with proper attribution to said friend).
Except, whoops! It turns out that the friend was himself blockquoting something else, a book called These Good Men: Friendships Forged in War, and Michael Norman, the author of the book, is a little bit tetchy about it. Norman is himself a Vietnam vet, though he somehow emerged from that experience as an NYU journalism professor (sounds liberal!) rather than a felon who profits from the conservative media/think tank reacharound circuit.
Despite the sensationalist headline on this post, North is probably not actually responsible for all this, though maybe he (or his paid staff) should have asked some questions before just cut-and-pasting longish passages from emails from someone who isn’t a professional journalist. The cool way to respond would be append a note to the original column taking responsibility for the miscommunication with Davis and crediting Norman properly. The not-cool way to respond would be to scrub the article of the quote (though you can still see the cached version!) and append a snotty note that Ollie had originally included plagiarized material “through no fault of his own,” which is what he did, because even if he’s not a plagiarist he’s still a dick. [WP via Romenesko]