American Bridge 21st Century, a “a progressive research and communications organization committed to holding Republicans accountable for their words and actions,” posted a story on Wednesday night accusing Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown of plagiarizing lines from a speech given by Elizabeth Dole in 2002. The organization posted screenshots of Brown’s now-taken-down “Student Resources” section on his website, and compared it with the transcription of Dole’s speech, found in her book, Elizabeth Hanford Dole: Speaking from the Heart.
Out of convenience, the parts of the text that weren’t directly copied are bolded below:
“I was raised to believe that there are no limits to individual achievement and no excuses to justify indifference. From an early age, I was taught that success is measured not in material accumulations, but in service to others. I was encouraged to join causes larger than myself, to pursue positive change through a sense of mission, and to stand up for what I believe.”
“I am Mary and John Hanford’s daughter, raised to believe that there are no limits to individual achievement and no excuses to justify indifference. From an early age, I was taught that success is measured, not in material accumulations, but in service to others. I was encouraged to join causes larger than myself, to pursue positive change through a sense of mission, and to stand up for what I believe.”
Brown’s spokesman, John Donnelly, said in a statement that the copying of Dole’s text was an innocent mistake made by staffers, and, therefore, should not be considered plagiarism. “Senator Dole’s website served as one of the models for Senator Brown’s website when he first took office. During construction of the site, the content on this particular page was inadvertently transferred without being rewritten,” Donnelly told the Boston Globe. “It was a staff level oversight which we regret and is being corrected.” A staffer for Dole told the Associated Press that the former senator believed the lifting was, indeed, an innocent mistake.
Consider this: the paragraph in question was found on a student resources section of Brown’s website. How many students are possibly visiting Brown’s website? And then how many more are cruising the student resources page, looking for ways to get involved with an election that’s still over a year away? 10? 15? There had to be an extraordinary confluence of events for someone to actually be on Brown’s student resources page, then to say to themselves, This inane paragraph above the ‘Fill Out The Fields Below’ part sounds vaguely familiar… I think these are the words of Elizabeth Dole! Who ran for Senate when I was eight!. Of course, American Bridge could be just copying every line on Brown’s site and then pasting it into Google, hoping it finds something like a Google Books cache…which might be the case here.
Plagiarism or no, Brown probably should have stepped up and said, “My bad. I should’ve been a little more vigilant.” Because nobody likes to see the young, eager, vague “staffers” get thrown under the bus. And maybe, on the flip side, American Bridge should be putting their resources into something more significant than trolling a student resources page.
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