Thou shalt not commit plagiarism

Ann Coulter has been accused of cutting and pasting dirty words.

Published July 21, 2005 10:14PM (EDT)

Raw Story has jumped on an item, originally posted by Rude Pundit, indicating that Ann Coulter may have plagiarized multiple sources in a June 29 column for conservative Web magazine In the story, a reaction to the Supreme Court's decision not to allow framed copies of the Ten Commandments to decorate a Kentucky courthouse, Coulter ticks off a list of displays that federal money has supported.

Raw Story claims that Coulter -- in listing, among other things, various "obscene" works of art that have received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts -- may have lifted the text describing these objects directly from the following sources: an edition of the Frummery Digest, a now-defunct online news digest critiquing political correctness (archived here); a 1995 article by conservative columnist and fellow contributer Jeff Jacoby; and a history of public arts funding written by Alice Goldfarb Marquis.

While it isn't difficult to envision a scenario in which Coulter, searching the Web for examples of gross art, cut and pasted sections of text and then neglected to reword them, we'll withhold judgment and leave it to you to decide.

We do have a few points about Coulter's article. First, it's not really an article. It's a long list of bullet points bracketed by 231 words of text. Perhaps she figured that since she was phoning it in, she didn't have to apply her usual rigorous journalistic standards. Second, she is nevertheless in fine form. She begins the article with a sneaky distortion, promising to "put the Supreme Court's recent ban on the Ten Commandments display in perspective." That sentence might give readers a false impression, since the court that day ruled to allow a different Ten Commandments display and essentially established that further decisions along these lines would be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Last, it is striking how, despite her bestselling books, Coulter's columns lurk in Internet obscurity. It's not surprising, though. She lost her latest mainstream media gig, covering last year's Democratic National Convention for USA Today, because she couldn't dial back her high-intensity sarcasm. And judging from her latest column on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, nothing has changed. Here's an excerpt:

"The only way a Supreme Court nominee could win the approval of NARAL and Planned Parenthood would be to actually perform an abortion during his confirmation hearing, live, on camera, and preferably a partial birth one."

We'll assume she made that one up all by herself.

By Aaron Kinney

Aaron Kinney is a writer in San Francisco. He has a blog.

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