In a case of apparent plagiarism, Fox News pundit Juan Williams lifted — sometimes word for word — from a Center for American Progress report, without ever attributing the information, for a column he wrote last month for the Hill newspaper.
Almost two weeks after publication, the column was quietly revised online, with many of the sections rewritten or put in quotation marks, and this time citing the CAP report. It also included an editor’s note that read: “This column was revised on March 2, 2013, to include previously-omitted attribution to the Center for American Progress.”
But that editor’s note mentions only the attribution problem, and not the nearly identical wording that was also fixed.
The really strange thing about this case is what it reveals about the writing and thinking process of the two-million dollar a year Fox News pundit:
In a phone interview Thursday evening, Williams pinned the blame on a researcher who he described as a “young man.”
“I was writing a column about the immigration debate and had my researcher look around to see what data existed to pump up this argument and he sent back what I thought were his words and summaries of the data,” Williams told Salon. “I had never seen the CAP report myself, so I didn’t know that the young man had in fact not summarized the data but had taken some of the language from the CAP report.”
Two things. First, he has an assistant? I’ve always suspected assistants were behind the obscure factoids and misleading statistics in George Will’s work (full disclosure–someone, I’ll find out later who, made this very same quip, I’m borrowing), but Williams’ defense makes that clear. Second, and more importantly, Williams confesses to his hacktackular thought process. He has an idea, then sends someone else out to provide data that “pumps it up.” It’s almost as if he had reached a conclusion, then dispatched a lackey to find him some premises. He’s the master chef of ideas, some underpaid assistant can chop up the ideas and cook the facts.