Harper’s plagiarized speech in media

Owen Lippert, a PhD historian with a lengthy track record in Canadian public policy and politics, including a term on the Globe and Mail’s editorial board in 1996, has admitted to plagiarism, apologized and resigned from the Conservative party’s election campaign. Lippert admitted that he wrote a speech for Stephen Harper, as then-leader of the former Canadian Alliance party in 2003, in which he plagiarized parts of Harper’s speech (unsuccessfully) urging Canada to join the Iraq invasion. After the speech was questioned by the Liberals, Lippert admitted that much of the speech was lifted from an earlier speech by former Australian prime minister John Howard, who (successfully) urged Australia to join the invasion of Iraq.

“Pressed for time, I was overzealous in copying segments of another world leader’s speech,” said Lippert in a Sept. 30 statement from the Conservative party and widely reported. “I apologize to all involved and have resigned my position from the Conservative campaign.” Lippert said Harper was not aware that part of his speech was copied.

The partly-plagiarized speech was duplicated in editorials published under Harper’s
byline on March 21, 2003 and in a guest editorial published on March
29, 2003 in the Wall Street Journal; reports say it was also submitted to the Toronto Star, National Post and Ottawa Citizen.

This is currently more of a political more than a journalism, story — and J-Source is a place to focus on craft. But it raises a question in the realm of journalism: who should be held responsible for plagiarism published in the media? Are politicians responsible for their own bylines in credible publications such as the Wall Street Journal? Do they get a pass if, as some politicians are known to do, they use speech writers?

The story on CBC.ca has links to Hansard PDF files of both Howard’s and Harper’s speeches. For background, here are stories in the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Press, Reuters, Bloomberg, CanWest.