Mickey Kaus draws attention to the Los Angeles Times’ recent piece on the real plagiarism at the heart of Dorothy Kearns Goodwin’s work:
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.
As I understand the prior state of the controversy, Goodwin had constructed a defensive perimeter around her 1995 Pulitzer-winning Roosevelt book, No Ordinary Time . Sure, her earlier Kennedy book might have had a “mistake” or two due to a “mechanical breakdown.” But it was just “these mechanical problems on this one book.” The Roosevelt book was clean. “Under the auspices of the law firm of Ropes & Gray, ‘No Ordinary Time’ has been reviewed and checked,” her attorney, Michael Nussbaum told the New York Times.”Everything is fully credited and attributed.”
But the L.A. Times looked at the Roosevelt book—and at a few of its sources—and found nearly three dozen instances where phrases and sentences in Goodwin’s book resembled the words of other authors.
The LAT ‘s Peter King gives five examples, presumably the best ones. They’re all ham-handed paraphrases of the “if I change three words I’ll get away with it” variety. In two,Goodwin actually names in her text the person (e.g. “Grace Tullly recalled”) she’s filching the rest of the paragraph from. Two others are almost defensible. But one bald, paragraph-long crib—from Joseph Lash—isn’t. After King’s piece, we can still have a debate over how awful this sort of plagiarism is. But it’s hard for Goodwin to deny her M.O.. (The wording changes in the borrowed sentences are so uninspired they do raise one question: Did Goodwin herself even do the paraphrasing? Or is she stealing credit from the real thieves —her assistants, maybe?)
Why hasn’t Goodwin been destroyed by King’s piece? I blame his editors, who buried their scoop under dozens of inches of calm, fair profiling (and under a stupefyingly tedious headline). If you’re Bob Woodward, readers might hunt through your wordy prose looking for the dirt. You can’t count on that if your paper is the fourth or fifth read of the East Coast elites. … This sort of failure—blowing the story even when you’ve got the goods—has to be demoralizing to LAT reporters….