campaign desk

Elephant in the Studio

Doris Kearns Goodwin on PlagiarismGate 2008
February 25, 2008

Which of Tim Russert’s expert roundtablers did he turn to first on yesterday’s Meet the Press to discuss PlagiarismGate (the Clinton campaign’s making hay of Barack Obama borrowing phrases from Gov. Deval Patrick)?

Russert turned first to Doris Kearns Goodwin, the presidential historian and Meet the Press regular.

And it should have made for awkward television – asking someone with a plagiarism scandal in her past to weigh in on charges of plagiarism from the campaign trail. I mean, what does that disclosure look like – “You’re no stranger to charges of plagiarism, Doris, how does Obama battle this? Does this stick?”

Well, yes. Something like that would have sufficed. Instead, Russert sidestepped the elephant in the studio, opting not to mention that the person he was tapping to analyze whether or not this borrowing-of-language matters was herself in 2002 accused of, er, borrowing.

Not a peep about it. Not even when Goodwin – who, as have many in the political press and punditry, generally dismissed the notion that Obama plagiarized – said this:

GOODWIN: …And you know, we can’t make too much of this. This is the spoken word. It’s different from the written word…”

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The written word…like, say, a book?

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.