Did Ben Carson Just Join the Political Plagiarism Hall of Shame?

How politicians have weathered accusations of plagiarism

Dr. Ben Carson speaks as the keynote speaker at the Wake Up America gala Event September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images

Possible Republican presidential contender Ben Carson stands accused of lifting passages of his 2012 book America the Beautiful from a website called Socialism Sucks, according to a BuzzFeed report on Tuesday.

Carson's publisher, Zondervan, a Christian division of HarperCollins, announced Wednesday that it was reviewing the allegations, and Carson apologized Thursday.

“I attempted to appropriately cite and acknowledge all sources in America the Beautiful, but inadvertently missed some,”  Carson said in a statement to BuzzFeed. “I apologize, and I am working with my editors to rectify the situation.”

The effect the finding will have on a possible Carson presidential campaign is unclear, but the retired neurosurgeon is by no means the only politician accused of improperly lifting a word or two without proper attribution. Both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have, at least in the long term, weathered accusations of plagiarism. Senator Rand Paul, it seems, is something of a plagiarism phoenix, rising again and again from the accusations. Others, however, have not been so lucky.

Here's a look at some of the top political plagiarism incidents and the fates of those involved:

Big lie country 

The charge: Montana Democrat John Walsh was appointed in 2014 to fill the seat of Senator Max Baucus when Baucus was tapped by President Barack Obama to become the ambassador to China. In July, the New York Times reported that the final paper Walsh had submitted to the United States Army War College for his master's degree had been plagiarized. The college opened an investigation. It was later revealed that a researcher from the National Republican Senatorial Committee discovered the plagiarism and leaked it to the Times.

The reaction: The Missoulian, along with several other outlets, called for Walsh to drop out of the race in an editorial. “The bottom line is, Montanans simply cannot—and won’t—trust a senator who portrayed the words and ideas of others as his own for his own personal gain,” the paper stated.

The fallout: Walsh dropped out of the race in August.

A tangled Wehby 

The charge: Monica Wehby was the Republican nominee in the 2014 Oregon Senate race. BuzzFeed found in September that much of her health plan copied work by Crossroads GPS.

The reaction: Wehby's campaign took down parts of its website following the accusations.

The fallout: Wehby stayed in the election, ultimately losing to Democrat Jeff Merkley.

A wiki situation 

The charge: Republican Senator from Kentucky has come under scrutiny several times for missing attribution. One occasion was in 2013, when Rachel Maddow pointed out that Paul had given the exact same synopsis for the film "Gattaca" as the one on Wikipedia. Reporters began Googling around to see what other phrases Paul might have lifted. Among several instances, it turned out that he also turned to Wikipedia for a summary of "Stand and Deliver." 

The reaction: Paul said that the accusers were just "haters," and said that crediting "Gattaca" and its writers was sufficient. 

The fallout: There pretty much wasn't any. 


The charge: Two decades before he was President Barack Obama's running mate, Joe Biden was presidential candidate himself. He was accused of borrowing liberally from a speech by Neil Kinnock, the leader of the British Labor Party. Columnist Maureen Dowd detailed the similarities for the New York Times. It came out later that Biden had failed one of his introductory courses in law school at Syracuse University because he had not properly cited sources in a paper. 

The reaction: Biden tried to save face by copping to the plagiarism in school, but tried to distinguish it as not "malevolent." 

The fallout: The scandal played a role in knocking Biden out of contention. 

Phone a friend

The charge: When the Obama was campaigning for the Democratic nomination in early 2008, a speech he gave in Milwaukee that appeared eerily similar to one by his pal Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Hillary Clinton's campaign was the first to point out those similarities. 

The reaction: Obama said he should have credited Patrick, who also worked closely with David Axelrod, and fired back at Clinton, saying that he had noticed some of his choice phrases like, "Fired up and ready to go" had slipped into Clinton's rhetoric. 

The fallout: We don't call him "former Secretary of State Barack Obama." 

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