How the Goodwin Story Developed

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tags: doris kearns goodwin, plagiarism

Editor's Note 10-6-05 Doris Kearns Goodwin's new biography of Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, has generated renewed interest in the scandal of 2002, when it was revealed that she had borrowed passages from other writers without proper acknowledgement. This page tracked the story as it unfolded. The story proceeds in chronological order. The latest entry features columnist Alex Beam's discovery that copies of her tainted work, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, had not been withdrawn from booksellers' shelves as had been promised.

Doris Kearns Goodwin Interview (1996).

The Weekly Standard first published Bob Crader's story on its website on Friday January 18, 2002 at 6:10 pm. It was then published in the January 28 paper edition of the magazine.

The Associated Press on Monday January 21 published half a dozen different versions of the story, citing the Weekly's account.

On January 22 the Boston Globe published the first newspaper story about Goodwin, who lives in the Boston area. The Globe reported for the first time that Goodwin had paid Lynne McTaggart an undisclosed amount in their settlement. Goodwin told the paper she's"absolutely not" a plagiarist. She said there were extensive footnotes" in The Fitzgeralds. She said that her mistake was not properly marking quotations in her 900 pages of hand-written notes. She explained that this was the"first big work of history I have ever done." The Globe story pointed out that in 1976--eleven years before--she had published Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. Ms. Kearns added that at the time she criticized Joe McGinniss she was unaware she had borrowed quotes without attribution.

On the afternoon of the twenty-second Slate.com published an article by Timothy Noah that provocatively claimed Goodwin"has not only committed plagiarism, but lied about whether it was plagiarism (and, incidentally, paid hush money to one of the people she plagiarized)." Noah observed that if a freshman at Harvard (where Goodwin sits on the Board of Overseers)had done what she did, the punishment would have been severe:"Harvard policy," according to the school handbook,"requires instructors to report all suspected cases to the Dean of the College, and most such cases are ultimately adjudicated by the Administrative Board. If the majority of Board members believe, after considering the evidence and your own account of the events, that you misused sources, they will likely vote that you be required to withdraw from the College for at least two semesters."

On January 23 the New York Times published its first story on the controversy. The paper did not advance the story, but used a startlingly blunt headline:"Historian Critical of Author Is Also Found to Plagiarize." A picture caption stated plainly that Goodwin"says carelessness led to plagiarism in a book she wrote in 1987." The article itself did not describe what Goodwin did as"plagiarism." (The online edition of the NYT carried this more circumspect headline:"Historian Says Publisher Quickly Settled Copying Dispute." The picture caption read:"She attributed her use of others' work in a book she wrote in 1987 to carelessness.")

On the afternoon of January 23 the Weekly Standard published a letter by Joe McGinniss about l'affaire Goodwin. He expressed his admiration for Ms. Goodwin but charged that she had mischaracterized his book out of a duty"she was expected to perform as a member of the Kennedy extended family." He insisted that"her complaint about my work was essentially baseless--that I quote from her repeatedly in my text, in each case placing quotation marks around the words used, and crediting her as the source." He noted that he even acknowledged her help in an author's note published, he pointed out,"in the original edition of the book, not added later."

Later on the twenty-third the Weekly Standard ran another story, this time featuring an interview with Lynne McTaggart, author of the book on Kathleen Kennedy. This was the first time McTaggert had ever spoken out. She said she felt compelled to after Goodwin misconstrued the record. Goodwin had told the Boston Globe that just a few paragraphs had been borrowed without proper attribution from McTaggert. McTaggert charged that so many of her words had been copied that she decided not to ask Goodwin to put them all in quotes."I never asked for quotations [because] I felt it would be impossible because of the sheer number of them. It would have taken hours and hours of determining what was an exact quote, almost an exact quote, and what was a close paraphrase. . . . So we said it was enough to attribute everything that came from my book."

Eight days after the story first broke Goodwin defended herself in a piece in Time.com. She blamed the entire mess on faulty note-taking. She did not address the charge of hypocrisy (i.e., accusing Joe McGinniss of the same offense of which she herself was guilty). Unlike Stephen Ambrose, she did not claim that it was a legitimate practice to drop into her book whole passages from another without using quotation marks.

On Saturday February 23, 2002 the Goodwin story took a new turn. Ms. Goodwin told the New York Times that"she failed to acknowledge scores of [additional] close paraphrases from other authors." She said that after the January flap she had asked her researchers to stop working on her next book, which is about Lincoln, so they could do a thorough check of possibly borrowed passages in her Kennedy book. She said that was when she discovered that many more passages had been borrowed. She said that at her request Simon and Schuster is going to destroy the copies of the book on hand and publish a new corrected edition in the spring. This will cost the publisher about $10,000.

In January when the story broke Goodwin explained that she had changed her methods after the Kennedy book to ensure accuracy. She told the NYT, however, that"she continued taking notes and writing in longhand."

Goodwin declined to identify the borrowed passages or the books they came from. That Saturday night History News Network revealed the names of three of the books, providing a list of borrowed passages.

On Wednesday February 27, USA Today ran an editorial ridiculing both Goodwin and Ambrose. The editorial began:"Half-truths. Implausible denials. Secret payoffs. Shredded documents. The elements of the Enron scandal? Nope, the reaction of big-name historians to revelations that they plagiarized parts of their popular histories on the Kennedy family and World War II."

Later on Wednesday the wires reported that Goodwin was bumped from her PBS perch on"The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." PBS said that Goodwin and the show's producers agreed she should go on indefinite leave until"she gets her situation resolved."

HNN reported that Goodwin was making phone calls to editors to preserve the reputation of her Pulitzer Prize winner, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Both she and her publisher, Simon and Schuster, insist that the Roosevelt book is free of the kinds of errors that cropped up in the Kennedy book.

Also Wednesday, the University of Delaware announced that it had withdrawn an invitation for her to speak at graduation in May. University President David Roselle explained:"We thought better to just cancel the appearance than to have her talk in front of our students and their families."

The following day the NYT ran two stories mentioning Goodwin, one by David Kirkpatrick announcing Goodwin's departure from the Jim Lehrer show, the other by Martin Arnold taking both Goodwin and Ambrose to task for their"lame" excuses. The Arnold article appeared on the front page of the Living Arts section, guaranteeing it a wide audience.

The Boston Globe, which first broke the story that Goodwin had paid McTaggert money, published two columns at the end of February and the beginning of March that came to opposite conclusions about the course the controversy has taken. First, Alex Beam commented,"In her public and private statements, this most decorated of popular historians seems to be asking for sympathy that would routinely be denied someone not so fortunate as to downplay her mistakes in a full-page essay in Time magazine, as she has, or on PBS. Maybe if I had heard one fewer time what a great historian she was I could feel more sympathetic." Then, a few days later Thomas Oliphant wrote that she was being unfairly maligned. He noted that she was being hounded by Philip Nobile. Oliphant's column, titled:"The Smearing of Goodwin," began,"Enough Already." Nobile responded with a letter to the paper in which he argued that Goodwin was guilty of a 15 year long cover-up. The Globe is publishing his riposte.

The following day Jonathan Yardley attacked writers/editors and Goodwin herself for using euphemisms to describe what she did."There are any number of good old-fashioned words for what this certainly seems to be, but the one that was most commonly used until recent vintage brought things up to date was 'plagiarize,'" Yardley wrote in the Washington Post."The ever-helpful and pithy Mr. Webster defines it as: 'to steal and pass off as one's own (the ideas or words of another); use (a created production) without crediting the source . . .; to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.' But Goodwin, in fessing up to her transgressions, said they were 'absolutely not' plagiarism. Instead, she said, she had 'borrowed' phrases and passages and facts from Lynne McTaggart ...."

Later in the day the Post's online edition reported that Goodwin had"pulled out of the Pulitzer panel." The article explained:"Pulitzer board administrator Seymour Topping said Monday that Goodwin 'decided not to participate' when the 18-member board meets April 4 and 5 to decide on the 21 prizes for work done last year. Topping said the decision was made after consultation this weekend between Goodwin and board chairman John Carroll, editor of the Los Angeles Times."

Writing in defense of Goodwin on March 3, mobylives.com columnist Dennis Loy Johnson noted that she has been the victim of a smear campaign organized by an anonymous emailer using fake Harvard addresses. The emails have been sent to the media, including HNN, challenging reporters to dig deeper. Johnson took note of the irony:"Some anonymous person using false addresses wants me to go after Doris Goodwin for falsely claiming someone else's work as her own -- that is to say, somebody using fake attributions wants me to go after somebody for using fake attributions." He concluded:"The worst thing Doris Kearns Goodwin has possibly done has been to lie to make herself look good. Her anonymous detractor, however, has lied to try and destroy somebody."

David Greenberg, uncharacteristically sitting out the controversy for weeks, finally entered the Slate fray on March 5, with a column titled,"Mistakes Were Made." Of the two, Ambrose and Goodwin, Greenberg argued that Ambrose's offenses were far worse. He thumbed his nose at the academics critical of his methods, while she apologized."Ironically," Greenberg concluded,"Goodwin seems to be the one suffering more—-having her membership on various boards questioned, her speaking invitations withdrawn. Because the reputation she wants to protect lies with elites, not just with an undiscerning mass, she couldn't shrug off her plagiarism and still preserve her reputation, even if she wanted to. She's in an impossible bind: The more she tries to fix her mistakes, the more attention she draws to them."

On March 6 Goodwin spoke at the College of St. Catherine in Minnesota. According to a local press account,"Goodwin had planned to talk about 'Democracy in Times of Crisis,' but she said she wanted to confront the charges against her and she changed her topic to 'The Writing of History: Problems and Pleasures.'" In her talk she spoke about the joy of writing. She gave the same explanation she has given before for the mistakes that cropped up in the Kennedy book: a bad system for taking notes. The paper reported that at the end of her talk she was given a standing ovation.

Her comments thus far did not seem to mollify here critics. The following day the Buffalo News ran the following quotation from Edward O. Smith Jr., chairman of the history department at Buffalo State College."This is sort of an academic version of Enron," he said, referring to both the Ambrose and Goodwin controversies."It's about filching other people's words and ideas."

On Sunday March 10 the New York Times featured an article by free lancer Tom McNichol that seemed to advance the Goodwin story. McNichol, identified in a tag at the bottom as"a contributing editor for Wired, [who] has written humor for Salon," reported that"the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has been rocked by more charges of plagiarism, this time concerning her love of baseball," as recounted in her book, Wait Till Next Year, a memoir of her youth as a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. McNichol went on to say that"it appears that many of Ms. Goodwin's baseball memories were 'borrowed' from other sources," including Roger Kahn. Most of the charges seemed entirely convincing. Two did not. McNichol wrote that Goodwin claimed that she had stood at home plate at Yankee Stadium before a roaring crowd, an anecdote"that is now believed to have been adapted from the life of the Yankee great Lou Gehrig." He also indicated that the plot of her memoir followed closely the film"The Bad News Bears."

McNichol's piece was published in the far-right column on the second page of the Week in Review, a page devoted to hard news. Many readers took the charges seriously. Half a dozen wrote to HNN to alert us to this sudden new development, including a past president of the American Historical Association.

What these readers did not realize was that the Times has used this space in the paper from time to time to feature spoofs. Goodwin's supporters say the paper misled readers. [Disclosure: the editor of HNN was taken in last year by another column in the same space about President Bush and the nicknames he gives people.] A spokesperson for Ms. Goodwin told HNN:

"The piece in yesterday’s Times in the Week in Review section by Tom McNichol has nothing to do with reality. It is apparently intended to be a spoof or an attempt at humor. We regret that the New York Times decided to publish it at all. We especially are disappointed that the Times published it in the Week in Review section on a page that otherwise had only hard news. That apparently increased the confusion so that people thought the story had some basis in fact when of course it didn’t. As far as we’re concerned it’s really nothing more than a small joke in bad taste. We are making this known to the New York Times."

On Monday March 11 the Harvard Crimson broke with Goodwin, recommending that she resign her position as a Harvard overseeer. In a front page editorial in the online edition, the student paper argued that she should have to play by the same rules as students:"For students who have committed plagiarism, as Associate Director of Expository Writing Gordon C. Harvey points out in Writing With Sources, 'any letter of recommendation written for you on behalf of Harvard College—including letters to graduate schools, law schools, and medical schools—will report that you were required to withdraw for academic dishonesty.' With this policy, it is clear that the College does not think that students who have committed plagiarism should be able to proceed, unaffected, with their career goals. Why then, should an adult who is more experienced, much less a professional historian, continue in her position in the University without consequence?"

Three days after the NYT ran McNichol's satire, the paper published a correction:"Some readers have mistaken the article for a factual report. It should have been explicitly labeled a satire." In its defense, the Times noted that the piece appeared"in a position usually reserved for humor, and the author was identified as a humor writer."

The controversy cost Goodwin another speaking engagement in March. She was scheduled to give a lecture at James Madison University on March 15--James Madison Day. But the school withdrew the invitation"after Goodwin acknowledged she had quoted other writers without sufficient attribution in her book about the Kennedys." Lawrence S. Eagleburger was tapped at short notice to replace her.

Concern that the attacks on Goodwin went too far, amounting to a witchhunt, several magazines in March began rallying to her defense. Natasha Berger in the American Prospect concluded that Goodwin had been maligned, specifically citing attacks on her integrity in the Washington Post and Slate:

"There is no proof the theft was intentional, and in this case, intent matters. Accidental plagiarism is something of an oxymoron, after all. Nor is it exactly fair to argue, as [Slate's Timothy] Noah does, that Goodwin is getting her just desserts because a 'Harvard undergraduate' caught doing the same thing would be punished with suspension. Goodwin's position in no way corresponds to that of a student. Her years of valuable -- and blameless -- scholarly work merit the benefit of the doubt."

On March 13 the University of Kansas became the third school to withdraw an invitation to Ms. Goodwin. She had been scheduled to deliver the first talk in the university's new Dole Institute of Politics Presidential Lecture Series. David McCullough was named as her replacement.

The announcement was made by the Institute's director, Richard Norton Smith, who once was one of her students."On a personal level, of course it was a difficult decision," Smith confided."On an institutional level, it was an easy decision. I'm well aware this is going to be a defining moment in the Dole Institute."

Just how many words did Goodwin borrow from Lynne McTaggert? On March 16 McTaggert herself gave the answer in an op ed in the New York Times. The answer: thousands of words."Whether Ms. Goodwin had used footnotes or even quotation marks around the passages taken from my book would not have mattered," McTaggert wrote."It was the sheer volume of the appropriation — thousands of my exact or nearly exact words — that supported my copyright infringement claim." (Editor's Note: McTaggert in January in a letter to the Weekly Standard indicated that Goodwin had borrowed dozens and dozens of phrases; she did not mention thousands of words.)

In a searing conclusion, McTaggert wrote"it is important not to excuse the larger sins of appropriation. In this age of clever electronic tools, writing can easily turn into a process of pressing the cut-and-paste buttons, or gluing together the work of a team of researchers, rather than the long and lonely slog of placing one word after another in a new and arresting way."

Lawrence Tribe rose to Goodwin's defense on March 18 in a letter to the Harvard Crimson, which identified him as"a staff writer." (A Harvard graduate, Tribe contributes pieces to the paper from time to time.) Tribe chided the editors for lecturing Goodwin and called their demand that she step down as overseer"nonsense."

He noted that Goodwin, an old friend, admitted making mistakes transcribing her notes."But there can be no doubt that, unlike the student who turns in someone else’s work as her own and hopes the instructor won’t notice the cribbing—-the student for whom the Harvard disciplinary rules to which the Crimson editorial referred were principally written—-Goodwin, who cited the very sources she has been accused of not crediting, had not the slightest intention to deceive, to claim originality for thoughts that were unoriginal, or to appropriate another’s deathless prose in hopes that she might be credited with a literary gift that belongs in truth to someone else."

Later that same day Slate's Timothy Noah took Tribe to task, identifying two weaknesses in his argument. First, Tribe indicated that Goodwin should be spared because she had not intended to deceive readers; under Harvard's standard, Noah observed, intent doesn't matter (though as he subsequently conceded in response to a reader complaint, Harvard punishes less harshly students who plagiarize unintentionally). Second, Tribe approved of Goodwin's settlement with McTaggert; Noah noted that the trouble with the settlement was that the addition of a few footnotes did not change the fact that numerous passages from McTaggert remained in Goodwin's text as if they were Goodwin's own. That McTaggert found the settlement satisfactory was beside the point:"By agreeing to Goodwin's terms, McTaggart became a party to that fraud."

On March 21 mobylives.com published a story by Philip Nobile entitled:"DID DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN COPY 'IN NO ORDINARY TIME,' TOO? . . . THE STORY SHE TRIED TO KILL." Nobile claimed that he had found examples of copying in Goodwin's Pulitzer-Prize winning book on the Roosevelts. Two Boston Globe columnists -- Alex Beam and Thomas Oliphant -- given a sneak peek at his evidence, earlier concluded that the passages did not amount to plagiarism.

Editor's Note: Nobile originally offered this piece to HNN. HNN initially agreed to publish it, then decided against doing so after receiving a phone call from Doris Kearns Goodwin. According to a statement printed on the homepage of mobylives.com,"Nobile says Goodwin has gotten the History News Network — where he is a contributing editor — to suppress his latest investigation of her work, after he let it be known that he was going to accuse her of plagiarism in yet another book." Actually, we simply reconsidered our decision on the basis of the facts that we now had before us. We concluded that each of her books has to be judged on the merits. We became convinced that Nobile's examples of alleged copying in the Roosevelt book did not raise sufficient doubts about her credibility to warrant publication.

On March 23 the Associated Press reported that the McTaggert/Goodwin fight had become nastier, McTaggert complaining that Goodwin had taken the"heart and guts" of her book about Kathleen Kennedy. McTaggert charged that"they have copied passages appearing on 91 of the 248 pages of my book." She added,"and at least 45 of 94 pages of Goodwin's book that discuss Kathleen Kennedy contain my material." Michael Nussbaum, Goodwin's attorney, responded:"It is preposterous for McTaggart to say that Goodwin copied 'thousands of words' from McTaggart or that Goodwin ... took the 'heart and guts' from McTaggart's work."

By the end of March the Goodwin story finally lost steam. Several days in a row there wasn't a single mention of Doris Kearns Goodwin in the major media. But she did pop up on David Letterman's show, Dave telling her,"I know your work a little bit, and you're no skunk." And on March 31 the NYT published a story critical of her campaign to win redemption from the media. The paper reported that she had been"working with Robert Shrum, a political consultant" and noted that Senator Ted Kennedy, a friend, had even intervened on her behalf when she was dropped by the Dole Institute. (Goodwin denied that she had asked the senator to intervene.) The story included this quotation from Robert C. Darnton, a professor at Princeton:"If she is organizing a P.R. campaign to exculpate herself, that strikes me as unprofessional conduct." Darnton was identified as a former president of the American Historical Association.

The following week, on April 8, the executive director of the OAH, Lee W. Formwalt, sounded more sympathetic, telling Newsday that he and fellow historians doubt that she was guilty of deliberate wrongdoing."I think probably most would give her the benefit of the doubt on that," he said. (Editor's Note: Mr. Formwalt told HNN on April 13 that he made his remarks to Newsday in an interview conducted some 7 or 8 weeks before the article appeared, at a time when information about the Goodwin controversy had just begun to emerge.)

On April 5, on the eve of the award of the 2002 Pulitzer Prizes, Philip Nobile asked the Pulitzer Board to consider revoking Goodwin's 1995 prize for No Ordinary Time. His reasoning: the"prize was obtained under false credentials. Had the Board known in 1995 that she was a practicing plagiarist in the paperback of 'The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys,' no award would have been granted." Nobile in years past had asked the Board to revoke the prize awarded in 1977 to Alex Haley, who was accused of plagiarism in connection with Roots. The Board declined. Former chairman Russell Baker told Nobile in 1993,"The history of the Board is not pure." Baker added:"Should we make an effort to amend the past? What's done is done."

On Saturday morning, April 13, members of the Organization of American History (OAH), attending their annual convention in Washington, D.C., crowded into the Renaissance hotel auditorium to hear Robert Caro, Nell Irvin Painter and Goodwin talk about the secrets of vivid writing. Goodwin, however, was a no-show. Sitting in her place was Richard Smith, who'd been drafted on Monday as a last-minute substitute. What had happened? Ten minutes into the discussion C-Span's Brian Lamb, host of the televised event, cryptically explained that Goodwin simply couldn't make it, leaving the audience to wonder what had happened. Here's the story, as recounted in HNN's History Grapevine: Despite the controversy, Goodwin had led OAH officials to believe she was going to attend the session, which had been arranged a year ago. Monday when they came to work they found an email from her assistant. She wouldn't be coming after all."Goodwin had really hoped to be there on the 13th," the email explained,"even in the midst of this difficult time. But it turns out that she and her husband have to be in London on business for a few days during that period. She promises that she will make this up to you in the future at whatever session you would like her to attend."

That Goodwin remained a presence at the session despite her absence was evident in passing references several panelists made in the course of their remarks. Asked at one point how he writes his books, Rick Smith answered:" I was going to say I make it up as I go along, but that is not a phrase I want to use these days." Later he was asked if he uses graduate students to help with his research. Never has, he said,"and in the current climate" wouldn't think of it.

The following message appeared on the website of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater mid-April: The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin have mutually agreed to cancel her scheduled keynote address on April 25 to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) 2002....NCUR will draw an expected 2000-plus undergraduates from more than 200 universities. Since plagiarism is a highly charged topic on college campuses, conference organizers were not in a position to speak for more than 200 campuses as to the appropriateness of Goodwin as the keynote speaker."

While little was published about the Goodwin controversy in late April, her critics remained eager to discredit her. HNN received several emails alerting us to unflattering references to Goodwin in the media. The anonymous emails came with the return address: dumpgoodwin298@boston.com. One email referred us to New York Magazine in which Goodwin's name was used as a cultural metaphor for theft in an article about fashion designer Nicolas Ghesquière:"After it was revealed earlier this month that the beautiful boy wonder at the head of Balenciaga had copied the most photographed showpiece of his spring collection -- a vest -- tassel-for-tassel, some people assumed he would become the Doris Kearns Goodwin of the fashion world."

Three months after the Goodwin story broke, Ms. Goodwin continued to be represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau, despite the cancellation of several important lectures (noted above). The bureau's website indicated that she was still drawing tens of thousands of dollars per lecture. On a scale of one to six, she ranked five, collecting fees between $25,000 - $39,999.

After trying for months to work out an agreeable arrangement with the Pulitzer Board, Goodwin finally resigned at the end of May. She explained:"After the controversy earlier this year surrounding my book `The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys,' and the need to concentrate now on my Lincoln manuscript, I will not be able to give the board the kind of attention it deserves." Upon her departure Board administrator Seymour Topping indicated that it had ended its investigation of the charge that she was guilty of plagiarism.

On August 4, 2002 the Los Angeles Times, which had ignored the Goodwin story, published a long piece putting the scandal into perspective. About midway through the story, which was written by Peter King, however, there was this bombshell:

For this article, The Times contracted with an outside reader to select a half-dozen or so of the books listed by Goodwin as source materials and simply follow the footnotes, randomly reading passages of"No Ordinary Time" against the other works. The process, which consumed roughly one full workweek, produced nearly three dozen instances where phrases and sentences in Goodwin's book resembled the words of other authors.

Goodwin's response?

As for any parallel language reflected in the passages, she said:"As long as a person is credited," on occasion there is"leeway to use some of the words. Just using individual words now and then, and when it is clear where it is coming from, that is what paraphrasing is." Moreover, she said, in some instances, references to the source were included in the text.

In some cases, she said,"if you had the whole thing quoted, you would lose the flow of the narrative." In others, the language in question was simply a common expression--how many ways are there to describe, say, a"white linen suit" or a camera being knocked"to the ground"?

And in still others, Goodwin said, sequential action was being described, and to tamper with the language would be to risk inaccuracy. She offered as an example of this the similarities between her description of Roosevelt's Guantanamo Bay visit and that of Sherwood:"This chronology and structure had to be adhered to in order to describe the visit accurately. Furthermore, the end-note anchor phrase of 'At Guantanamo Bay, etc.' clearly alerts the reader that general information about the Guantanamo Bay is derived from Sherwood's book."

Finally, Goodwin said:"The most important thing I keep coming back to, and what most people would agree with, is that the standard to be met in every instance is providing appropriate credit to the source."

A week after the LA Times story broke, political writer Mickey Kaus, writing in Slate, wondered why Goodwin isn't"toast":"Either nobody reads the Los Angeles Times, or it's summer and nobody reads anything, or people are sick of the Doris Kearns Goodwin plagiarism story -- but for some reason attention hasn't been paid to a fairly damning front-page Times piece that knocks one of the remaining props out from under Goodwin's defense."

Kaus noted that Goodwin had continuously maintained that the Roosevelt book was pristine. Her spokesman, lawyer Michael Nussbaum, had told the NYT that"Everything is fully credited and attributed" in No Ordinary Time. Yet the LAT showed that there were dozens of examples of copying, at least one, egregious.

Kaus concluded that the editors of the paper were to blame. They buried the lead. Not until midway through the piece, Kaus noted, did the reader learn about the copying in the Roosevelt book.

Just days after Slate's piece, the Boston Globe's Alex Beam called the LAT's article"damning." He reported that"Goodwin and Nussbaum are mounting an aggressive defense of her actions":

The LA Times article is"junk journalism," Nussbaum says."Any time you put passages together side by side, yes, the inference will come forward that because the passages resemble one another there must be something wrong with the scholarship." Nussbaum adds that Ropes & Gray"looked at every single footnote without exception and then went to every source to see if the footnote was correct, proper, and met the highest standards of scholarship. We gave `No Ordinary Time' a clean bill of health, and we stand by that."

August closed out with a damning article by the Weekly Standard, the magazine that started the Goodwin brouhaha in January. The article, titled"Repeat Offender," began:"Like history, plagiarism tends to repeat itself." The magazine went on to recount the revelations in the LA Times, including this example of what appeared to be copying:

HUGH GREGORY GALLAGHER in FDR's Splendid Deception:"FDR had made it a rule, during his first campaign for governor, that photographers were not to take pictures of him looking crippled or helpless. . . . It was an unspoken code, honored by the White House photography corps. If, as happened once or twice, one of its members sought to violate it and try to sneak a picture of the President in his chair, one or another of the older photographers would 'accidentally' knock the camera to the ground or otherwise block the picture."

GOODWIN in Ordinary Times:"If, as occasionally happened, one of the members of the press corps sought to violate the code by sneaking a picture of the president looking helpless, one of the older photographers would 'accidentally' block the shot or gently knock the camera to the ground."

The Weekly acidly concluded:

Goodwin's response?"There are thousands of footnotes in the book . . . and they are really good footnotes."

As for language swiped from other authors?"I took the notes," she told King."And they were in my longhand. And then, when they got into the text, that was the mistake." The"mistake," Goodwin still insists, occurred because a researcher didn't" cross-check" the quotations with the original material, but she doesn't want to blame someone else."That was her responsibility to cross-check it, but she didn't. But that doesn't matter. It's mine. I'm the one." So it was the researcher's responsibility to make sure she didn't plagiarize, but it was Goodwin's book? Got it.


On September 23, 2002 Philip Nobile, in an article published by HNN, took the LAT to task for declining to publish the 30-odd parallels the paper's researcher discovered in Ms. Goodwin's Kennedy book. The paper maintained that the parallels are"work product." Mr. Nobile argued in a series of emails reproduced on HNN, that the paper had an obligation to reveal its evidence so readers could judge for themselves the egregiousness of Ms. Goodwin's alleged copying.

In October 2003 the NYT published an article about the widespread phenomenon of cheating. The article included Goodwin as an example of a celebrity who got caught violating standards of good behavior. In response, about a dozen historians came to her defense.

In the fall of 2005 Ms. Goodwin began giving media interviews again in conjunction with the publication of her new biography, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, published by Simon & Schuster. Thomas Mallon, in the Atlantic Monthly reported on two extensive interviews. In an effusively positive and lengthy piece Mallon, the author of a book about plagiarism, indicated that Goodwin preferred not to discuss the subject of the 2002 controversy and asked to go off the record when the subject came up. Most of his article concerned her new book, which he indicated showed Goodwin to be a master at narrative history.

Writing in the Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam reported his discovery that a promise to make amends for the past had not been carried out:

In the midst of her troubles in 2002, Goodwin announced to The New York Times that she had asked Simon & Schuster to pulp all paperback copies of the tainted ''Fitzgeralds" book so that she could publish ''a thoroughly corrected edition this spring." But on Monday I bought a new paperback copy of ''Fitzgeralds" that had no sign of any corrections. ''We did exactly what we said we were going to do," says Simon & Schuster's Hayes. ''We did pull all our copies as promised. We weren't aware that other copy [from St. Martin's Press] was out there."

The promised corrected edition of ''Fitzgeralds" may be forthcoming after Goodwin finishes her current book tour, Hayes says.

A few days later Slate's Timothy Noah ripped into Goodwin for failing to follow-through on her promise:

I have misrepresented Ms. Goodwin's actions, and I owe her an apology. In my earlier columns, I portrayed Ms. Goodwin as somewhat craven for correcting her faulty text only when bad publicity required it. What I should have written was that Ms. Goodwin was really, really craven for saying she was going to correct her faulty text and then, once the braying media pack scampered away, not doing it!

In late October 2005 Goodwin's past became useful fodder for Northwest's Mechanics' Union. Goodwin serves on the board of the union. In its stuggle with the company the union is putting pressure on board members. The union released a pamplet entiled,"The Great Emancipator Meets a Great Prevaricator." 100,000 copies were said to have been printed. The same week it was revealed that Steven Spielberg has optiond her Lincoln book for the movies.

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randy james - 8/31/2008

What I don't understand is this: if Ms. Goodwin plagiarized thousands of words on purpose, how could she imagine getting away with it? In the software business, just about everything we do is copied from somewhere, and while there are numerous software geeks capable of sufficient narcissism to believe that their particular variation on some esoteric logic problem should be enshrined with a copyright, there are so many ways around that nuisance, almost nobody pays attention any more.

If Ms. Goodwin really wanted to steal from Ms. Taggert, wouldn't she have been better off taking the gist of the content and "shape shifted it", thereby elevating the controversy to the level of true crime?

Speaking as a software programmer with a BA in English, on a planet with 6.7-billion souls, and a global network which goes a long way towards creating, in reality, that apocryphal "room full of monkeys with typewriters", the problems of self-expression are piled high with difficulty, and you'd be well advised to start thinking and acting differently. You should disenthrall yourselves, and then perhaps you may preserve your standing in the new (virtual) ivory tower.

(And feel free to quote me.)

Stephen Kelly Barton - 8/14/2006

Yes, it sure looks like a mistake. I'm bumping Jane Birnbaum's note to you to fix.

jane birnbaum - 3/30/2006

It says: "In late October 2005 Goodwin's past became useful fodder for Northwest's Mechanics' Union. Goodwin serves on the board of the union."
I think you mean she's on the board of Northwest.


jane birnbaum - 3/30/2006

It says: "In late October 2005 Goodwin's past became useful fodder for Northwest's Mechanics' Union. Goodwin serves on the board of the union."
I think you mean she's on the board of Northwest.


jane birnbaum - 3/30/2006

It says: "In late October 2005 Goodwin's past became useful fodder for Northwest's Mechanics' Union. Goodwin serves on the board of the union."
I think you mean she's on the board of Northwest.


Mike Dorsey - 12/6/2005

I have a weighty suggestion.

Go and read Kearn's books. Also Ms McTaggart's book on Kathleen Kennedy. Check this against Kearns 900 page history of the Kennedys. I honestly suggest this.

When you do this, and look at the footnotes in each book, you may get an idea how a mistake could be made.

Mrs. Kearns is a house wife, and mother with a love of history. This attack is a very sad affair. It is so easy to think ill of each other. I do hope you do this.

Wishing you the best of the Holidays,


Mike Dorsey - 12/6/2005

Apologies in advance for grammar and spelling, I am an advertising art director. English was my enemy. But I am well versed in selling, deceiving and getting you to think useless thoughts through the media.

Advertising is creating bullshit. We all have bullshit antennae but I humbly offer a life of lying with a smile in media makes for an extra sensitive one. There are reasons Kearns, a middle aged, mother working out of her home became the unrelenting target of the Conservative Right.

During the 2000 election, "The News Hour with Jim Lerher" had a distinguished historians segment. During a couple of these segments, for reasons beyond any comprehension, staunch politicos of George W. Bush, with very little or no academic credentials were given a seat. As expected they made remarks that had no sound basis in the context of history.

Kearns was the only person at the table those to react with honest disagreement, and well deserved astonishment. During at least two of these section of "The News Hour", she actually laughed at the guest and their unbelievably absurd comments.

Her simple honest reaction totally destroyed them. Her reaction also destroyed their purpose, to distort history. Unfortunately for Kearns, she humiliated these people on nationwide TV, easily showing the inconsistencies and flaws in their thinking. And according to Neo-conservative macho this is a no - no. Add to this that her husband was a long time friend and associate of that lefty Bobby Kennedy. And, he also is a very, very effective liberal spokesperson and writer.

Too outlandish?

We are discovering the devious machinations of previous PBS board Chairman Tomilison and other extreme conservative elements in politics, religion, science and the media. Tomilison is veteran of the Cheney - Delay -Rove -Genrich aggressive "Go negative first and go negative with everything you’ve got" style of politics. We are living through our own first hand experience in mob tactics. (Delay in Texas redistricting, the Wilson case, etc)

What an easy target Kearns was! A Pulitzer Prize winner, a very effective, forceful spokes woman of the liberal side and the prime spokesperson for the anti–Christ of the right – FDR.

But most of all, Kearns was a middle age woman working out of her home with the chaos of kids and family about her. Totally vulnerable to the classic tactics of the "smear": simply attack her credibility and let the neo conservative blitz begin. So simple so, effective. What resources could you muster against such a media tsunami? - "Swift boating" before it got the name.

Kearn’s Sin? Consider your first large history, 900 pages? As historians know, how overwhelming the notes are in the writing such a history. Kearns is not an academic, and in any first effort mistakes are inevitable. You as teachers and historians know from experience when a student’s effort was to deceive or just a mistake.

But ruining a person’s name is an industry in our culture. Mrs. Kearns Goodwin stepped into a shadow land few can imagine when she humiliated the Bush-Cheney machine. Nor can she possibly imagine what she and her husband represent to these people. Others are discovering it. And few in the beltway question the power of these people once they get their game in motion.

You as historians know of the power of this kind of partisan hate. Black balling.

I hope there is an historian who has the education, dedication, insight and courage to unravel this tawdry attack on simple truth. They have silenced Kearns and are putting the chill real public dialogue.

Chuck Diaz - 12/1/2003

After reading the entire "How the Goodwin Story Developed," I've concluded academia and others who lean the same way will create dances or as shown in the movie "Chicago" "tap dances" in order to help one who is guilty. There's an awful lot of tap dancing going on in what I just read.
She obviously plagiarized and then lied about it. She just can't write so she restructures sentences from others books.
I looked her up because I just saw her on "Meet the Press." I guess Tim Russert doesn't mind having a plagiarist on his panel or does it mean she's back in the fold.

Jim Hall - 11/27/2003

Some people are far too touchy about to many things. I guess my question is: "Did what Ms. Goodwin purportedly did adversely impact the one who is yelling?" If not I think that someone is making a lot more out of something than is there. Maybe Ms. Goodwins books sold better than someone else's book? Is that possible?

I also would like to make a comment on our curent president and his fiasco in Iraq and how he justified his actions. The logic presented was very similar to that described by Ms. Goodwin in reference to General John De Witt's comments on why the Japanese had to be be put in internment camps. "The very fact that no sabotage has taken place is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken." Exact same logic for invading Iraq - no WMDs found. If we do not take them out their WMDs will get us. Bad reasoning both times.

Fred Miller - 11/6/2003

I am trying to get into touch with doris kearns goodwin. I have created an educational card game that involves patriots and presidents and would like her opinion.


Fred Miller

David - 8/17/2003

Thank you for your in-depth coverage of plagerism. An author myself (David Lewis Hammarstrom/David H. Lewis), forever aware of respecting the original, uniquely stated or controversial ideas of others, and have absolutely no problems with quotation marks, this subject fascinates me.
P.S. To my knowledge, the above was not lifted from any other writer!

If you are an author you need to use your spell checker as you misspelled plagiarism the very subject about which you are writing.

Nancy K. Brown - 8/8/2003

I couldn't agree more with those who miss her on TV. What a voice and person of such enthusiasm, cheerfulness, and humor. Her comments and wisdom are sorely missed.
She and Stephen Ambrose have made history accessible to many who would otherwise have remained indifferent. I am grateful for the explanations of historical attribution by some who have written on this page. Paraphrasing the information of other writers, with appropriate footnoting, is certainly how I was taught one writes about research.
Both of these people have interested me in the pastime of learning about American history. I hope we can see Doris again in the near future.

George H. Meek - 7/29/2003

Ms. Goodman's book, "The Fitzgeralds and Kennedys" had been bouncing around our house for more than 10 years. My wife read it years ago, loved it, and went into our "library". Not knowing the controversy going on regarding the book, I just happened to pick it up for some summer reading and had just completed it. I found the book extremely interesting and valuable, ...and.. extremely well written(?!). Perhaps by more than one author. Nonetheless, for me the reader, it made for good reading and gained much more insight into the amazing Kennedy family which has been such an important part of my history. Interesting that I am also a great fan of Steven Ambrose's books. I discussed the book this week with some friends who informed me of the controversy and thus looked up your website to get up to date. While disappointed that Ms Goodwin was not careful with her sources, will probably read more of her work because of my love of history and my good experience with this now controversial book. I hope Ms Goodwin continues doing great work and keep me in good books for years to come.

Christopher Mooney - 7/19/2003

Having no use for conspiracy theories (including all the JFK ones), there does seem to be a different standard for those on the left as oppposed to those in the right. But, then, we live in a time of Presidential election fraud and outright fascist media control, and so who can be surprised? I do think the whole matter may make her forthcoming Lincoln book more interesting and readable considering how hard it is to say something new and insightful about that giant figure of world history.

Lee Ware - 6/12/2003

No matter what Doris Kearns Goodwin did or didn't do re plagiarism (I'm sure she's honest), I miss seeing her on TV & reading about her so much. We need her wisdom and explanations, her historical understanding as applied to today. Please bring her back!

April Hamilton - 5/14/2003

Doris Kearns Goodwin is my mentor, as a woman who has lived with heart disease and Multipe Slerosis for thirty seven years,then later would be diagnosed with a brain tumor,I found myself needing to focus on something other than my own problems.

Upon reading the books of Doris Kearns Goodwin,the style and knowledge of her books,enthralled me so much, that it gave me the idea to write something of my own.

My first book as just been published; the joy and satisfaction that it is is bringing to myself and others, is with out compare. As I start my second book, how thankful I am, that because of the writing of this great woman, despite my bad health, I have found a new joy in life. One I never dreamed would be possible....all because I fell in love with the writing's by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Where ever you are Ms.Goodwin, Thankyou.

April Hamilton

nicolyn steinhoff - 5/9/2003

I totally agree with you. Ms. Goodwin is an upstanding person who got caught by the "good ole boy" network. She's guilty of telling the truth.

Charlie Clerke - 2/26/2003

As a writer-historian this slamming of Goodwin makes me very angry. This is a McCarthy witchhunt in a nation with too many lawyers sniffing for money. Here's why: All these news stories, even the above history of these news stories, simply charge "Plagiarism!" (as McCarthy simply charged "Communist!") and the public is left to fill in the blanks as to what that must mean. There are almost no excerpts of passages provided in these news stories to let the public see the real issues. On this page, there is only one excerpt, not from the book in question about the Kennedys, but from a book about Roosevelt. So all this public controversy and the trashing of Goodwin's entire life and reputation is based on innuendo.

All history involves the retelling of stories. There is no way to understand or describe an historical event with accuracy unless you strongly rely on previous sources. That's what scholarship is all about--paraphrasing the words of primary and secondary sources. The sources should be cited in footnotes. The book in question is 900 pages long and has 3,500 footnotes! I'd say she did her homework and properly cited sources! The only reason this became a scandal is because Goodwin won a Pulitzer and got rich--then as always, the filthy lawyers come sniffing around for money.

As for the specific clauses that were allegedly stolen without citation, that is no big deal in a book that already is swamped with 3,500 footnotes--unless it becomes a bestseller and makes the author rich. So this is less about plagiarism and more about getting rich and famous. Plagiarism is when you steal someone else's entire idea and paragraphs and sell them as your own. Plagiarism is not writing a book with 3,500 properly cited sources. This problem of paraphasing is unique to historical works. Plagiarism is much easier to see in fiction--but in nonfiction, ALL HISTORY IS PLAGIARISM. That is the scholarship process, paraphasing the words of other authors.

If I write a biography of Captain Cook and read in primary source Beaglehole, "Off the coast of Australia the Endeavour struck a reef and started to sink," how can I relate this essential fact in my text? "The Endeavour was almost shipwrecked when it hit a reef along the Australian coast." NO I can't say that! That's not paraphasing, but plagiarism according to many people. Well then, how can I relate this essential fact? No matter how I say it, some will call it plagiarism, even if I cite the source. Here's how the law should work: If I cite the source, then paraphasing is not plagiarism. There are only so many ways to say, in Goodwin's case, "knock the camera to the ground."

Of course she should cite the author--but in a book with 3,500 footnotes, I assume she already cited all these authors many times. After a certain point it becomes aburd to cite every sentence. But relating nonfiction historical events is entirely paraphasing other works, cited or not. In my biography of Cook, I cite Beaglehole dozens of times. I cite the Australian shipwreck to Beaglehole, and the fact that my sentence necessarily closely resembles Beaglehole is simply the nature of relating historical events. So what? And who wants to buy a book that is swamped with footnotes on every page? No one. TV documentaries don't bother to cite anything. Commentators, politicians and news journalists often fail to cite, yet they are not considered plagiarists.

I think the Goodwin and Ambrose cases are based entirely on the fact that they got rich and famous from their works. And yes, it is a sore point for me too, when I contemplate that these authors deliver one two-hour lecture at a University and get more money in two hours than I make all year. This gap between rich and poor is a socioeconomic problem and desperately needs to be reformed-- but that's beside the point. I feel this is an unjust witchhunt which has ruined the life and reputation of a Pulitzer-prize winner. My feelings may change if I could see all these alleged plagiarized paragraphs--but without more specific examples, I see no evidence to warrant such a witchhunt.

Here's why I am so upset: Such charges of copyright violation can be used against anyone attempting nonfiction historical text. Ask not for whom the bell tolls-- We are moving toward a police state in which global corporations control our thoughts and views of reality-- I cannot even describe yesterday's news without being charged with plagiarism by some corporate lawyer. Copyright law especially in America is raging out of control, and its effect is to enrich global corporations as it stifles dissent and removes the voice of marginalized writers. We must fight against such a police state.

Mele Lin - 2/5/2003

This whole situation is very sad, disappointing but it is very clear she has been banned from appearances at any level. I really enjoyed Ms. Goodwin and her input was valuable.

Coco Altamirano - 1/24/2003

What gets our goat in the university is not only the fact that she plagiarized, but that the way she tried to hide behind language that would free her of her responsibility, while appearing responsible. She is a fraud, that is why she is so good on television.

norm - 12/26/2002

I always wondered how she could be an expert on so many topics.
Now she is an expert on plagiarism. I wonder if she had any youthful recollections of that.

Lizardi - 11/30/2002

Whatever the truth of the plagarism scandal, her presence on the Lehrer Report is greatly missed. There is not much joy in "Mudville" any longer. (Please particularly note the quotation marks you anal-retentive types!)

Dr. Leonard J. Lehrman - 11/1/2002

I knew and often had breakfast with Doris Kearns in Dunster House at Harvard in 1970-71. I don't believe there is any historian writing today with as much compassion, insight, thoughtfulness, and integrity as she has and has always had. I was reminded of her baseball book by an article that just appeared in JEWISH CURRENTS by a cousin of mine, Mordecai Rosenfeld, and wanted to send it to her. Searching online for her address, I found your article, which invited comment. You now have mine. If you could inform me of her email/postal address (is Doris A. Kearns in S, Boston a different person?), I'd appreciate that very much. Thanks. Sincerely, (Dr.) Leonard J. Lehrman

historyundergraduate - 10/14/2002

I have read and owned many of the books cited by HNN in the
article above, and for that reason do not believe that Goodwin
is a plagiarist -- at least by the standards of any of the
historians in her field. Books abound on both the Kennedys and
the Roosevelts, and as a reader, I have noted many passages in
these books which have a familiar ring (i.e., the adjustment of
prose by an author from another source). I came to view it as an accepted practice in the historical community, so long as the previous author was cited -- and since I read footnotes too,
most usually are.

I think the Goodwin passages, if it they are to be regarded as an inappropriate plagiarism, must then be the foundation for a
discusssion of boundaries in historical citations, and the willingness of other historians to have their books disseminated
in a similar fashion.

Currently, however, her practices are not uncommon. It is up to
the community of scholars (if they have the courage to do so) to
decide whether they are right or wrong.

Barbara Woodin - 10/13/2002

Having just written a condolence email to the family of Stephen Ambrose on his untimely death, I am compelled to add my thoughts to the DK Goodwin tempest in a teapot. I read the notes and articles published about Ms. Goodwin's so-called "plagiarism", and wonder how one would phrase quotes and descriptions she used in her books in any other way. Specifically, the citation about FDR's not being photographed in his wheelchair. She did not quote the other author, indeed, she tightened up the paragraph with a very good explanation of a practice of tight-lipped security of his illness, that today would not hold. How else to say it than the way she did?

I think some of these nit-picking "journalists" and I use the quotation marks advisedly, and "academics" who have harshly judged her and Stephen Ambrose, need to remember the phrase, "those who can DO, and those who can't TEACH" and I might add CRITICIZE! Perhaps in the huge space created by 24/7 journalism, these folks have nothing better to do than to undermine and tarnish the reputations of two of America's finest biographers and historians. I, for one, hope that Mr. Ambrose's untimely death wasn't hastened by this commotion about very little of any value, and that Ms. Goodwin continues to write, and appear on TV as a very knowledgeable and articulate spokesperson on politics, history, and current events. I very much miss her thoughtful commentary on PBS, NBC, CNN and other outlets which have had her on and hope that they rethink this banishment, and put her back on the air. Meanwhile, if she continues to write, all the better for history and her legions of dedicated readers.

Richard M. Lapham - 10/11/2002

Well, this is a bit late, but I must comment. I have read her books and they are several hundred pages long each and I must agree with her, for the most part, 'how many ways can a specific incident be expressed?' I have heard her many times on PBS Newshour and she is vivid, expressive and interesting. I truly hope she didn't plagiarize and it doesn't seem as though she did. However, I for one, really miss her public appearances. She made history alive in a very special way. I hope whoever started this mess thinks it was worth it.

Clyde W. Howard III - 10/4/2002

Well, yes, somebody cares about these issues. I'm a lawyer by profession. I'm a history buff by avocation, and i care greatly about the integrity of the books and articles published. Without honesty on the part of the authors (including properly crediting sources and sections "borrowed" from others), it becomes impossible to trust the works by the authors in question.

It is the actions of those who discover and publicize plagerism that keep folks honest. This extends past the issue of crediting sources, of course - one can only cry at the despicable behavior of a Michael Bellesiles, who appears to have simply made up data and sources. And thereafter, when caught, instead of doing the honorable thing and opening his veins in the bath (seems to me a historian, if Bellesiles can be so named without dishonoring real historians, might follow Roman tradition), he refuses to admit his wrongs.

At least Ambrose and Goodwin have admitted their thefts, even if they have also tried to minimize and excuse them.

So - yes, this whole thing is important, and a lot of people do care.

Michael Burns - 9/18/2002

It is shameful that while Doris Goodwin has seen her profesional integrity attacked repeatedly, Stephen Ambrose has escaped with a slap on the wrist. Refering to Ambrose as a "patriot " in no way diminishes his crime.

Allen Campbell - 8/15/2002

Its' perhaps better for you remain an amateur.

joe - 8/4/2002

You people deserve to sit in your little windowless offices and make $ 70,000 per year if all you have to do is complain about someone who accidentally did not put quotation marks around a sentence.

I am an amateur historian, not a professional, because of professors like those who send anonymous tips to publications hoping that a peer's work will be criticized because they have become to popular.

Does anyone really care about this ??

David H. Lewis - 8/4/2002

I have to wonder why a book which so relentlessly paraphrases -- at best -- the work(s) of others should even be deemed worthy of special acclaim. Ms. Goodwin evidently is a very skilled regurgetator of the prose found in other works. Having not read any of her books (today's story in the Los Angeles Times was a helpful guide into her evident modus operandi), yet should I assume -- notwithstanding the charges against her of unseemly literary theft -- that she must bring something unique to the discriminating reader -- such as original interpreations or unique overall viewpoints to justify such prior wide-ranging respect in the historical communities? In the absense of some compelling argument for orginality of vision or breadth and depth in organizing the dispirite materials of others into fresh historial structures, then Ms. Goodwin would apear to be little more than a very successful hack. Thank you for your in-depth coverage of plagerism. An author myself (David Lewis Hammarstrom/David H. Lewis), forever aware of respecting the original, uniquely stated or controversial ideas of others, and have absolutely no problems with quotation marks, this subject fascinates me.
P.S. To my knowledge, the above was not lifted from any other writer!

A. P. Baker - 3/15/2002

For a long time now, the New York Times Week in Review section has devoted the far right column on the second page to humor. Any regular reader of the NYT knows this. In any case, how could anyone think that the article was serious? Kearns really thought that the Yankees had a special day for her? She took the story from the Bad News Bears? Spoofs have some value if they remind us to look at the news, from whatever source, with a skeptical eye.

Bill Clay - 3/14/2002


Bill Clay - 3/14/2002

Why should anyone expect less from the "standard" newspaper of the world (sorry London papers). The inclusion of humor, along with hard news, is on par with doctored pictures and, do I dare say it, slander! The New York Times should not only get down on their corporate knees and beg forgiveness, but they should offer Kearns some cold hard cash. Perhaps the amount should be what she paid to settle her "little probem" for borrowing content?

Looking at the Kearns "troubles", there simply is no good excuse for borrowing ideas, content, or production from others without permission and credit. Those that do should suffer the same fate as guilty students, and for that reason I heartily agree with the Harvard student paper. While her excuse is certainly more acceptable than the Ambrose dung heap of a dodge for his transgressions, she still did the dirty deed. Penalties should be extracted.

To put it in the simplest terms, "If you want to write, and write correctly, credit were it is due. If you decide not to credit, you are a thief. Plain and simple.". As to the Times, well let me say this, I have enjoyed local jerkwater newspapers I would trust more to "get it right".

Tamara King - 3/14/2002

Publishing spoofs, when they are not labeled as such, are a disservice to journalism and to readers. To those of us not "in the know," it simply feels like an inside joke with which we were taken in and made to feel like fools once the article was revealed as a spoof. This is unethical journalism.