Obama and Plagiarism

Because I’m in the middle of teaching the research paper to 30 juniors–and because I’m interested in politics, I was intrigued by the latest uproar over Obama’s allegedly lifting phrases from other candidates without attributing the statements to the original speaker. My initial reaction was that it’s okay, but I decided to do a little research on the matter, before making up my mind. After searching all over the web and reading numerous articles and watching several videos, I came back to where I first heard about the issue–Bill O’Reilly. He sums up the issue nicely in his “Talking Points” memo from February 19. Video. Transcript.

Basically, O’Reilly compares Deval’s speech (though his video is different from ones I found on YouTube) to Obama’s. And he concludes that “people often borrow thoughts when speaking. It happens all the time. If Barack Obama had written an article and not credited Governor Patrick, that would have been plagiarism. Just talking off the cuff like that, I think you’ve got to cut him some slack.”

Here are some more articles and videos I found on the matter, if you’re interested.

Clinton aide accuses Obama of plagiarism This article includes links to video of Deval’s speech and then Obama’s speech as well as several retalitory examples of Clinton plagiarizing.

Here is a longer video of Obama’s speech “Don’t Tell Me Words Don’t Matter”

Obama by the Numbers: Twice-Told Tales, and Nine in a Row

After doing some research, I still think it was not wrong for Obama to use some of the same quotes and phraseology as Deval Patrick. No one was upset that Obama quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. or President Kennedy or the Declaration of Independence without attributing the statements to them, but it was a problem (to some) that he quoted Patrick’s quotation of those statements without recognizing the original speaker. Furthermore, Patrick is an Obama supporter and friend and apparently they have spoken several times about this matter (see the Politico article above). In addition, Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Deval Patrick have all had David Axelrod as a campaign adviser, which may explain similarities in their rhetoric.


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