WashingtonPost.com blogger: Maybe it's my editor's fault

Ben Domenech says he's never lifted anyone else's work without attribution. Oh, really?

Published March 24, 2006 4:24PM (EST)

Ben Domenech, the new right-wing blogger for WashingtonPost.com, has now addressed charges that he has engaged in repeated acts of plagiarism -- at least sort of, and not in his Red America blog, which hasn't seen a new post since yesterday, when he was last heard explaining away why he called Coretta Scott King a "communist" on the day after her funeral.

In a Howard Kurtz piece in this morning's Washington Post -- not to confuse anybody, but it also appears in the separately owned WashingtonPost.com -- Domenech says he has never used anyone else's material without attribution and suggests that an editor at his college newspaper may have been responsible for adding plagiarized copy to some of the articles he wrote.

That defense might work if plagiarized text showed up only once in Domenech's work at the College of William and Mary. If, in fact, an editor is guilty of that kind of transgression -- we've never seen it happen, but anything is possible -- you call him on it, probably get him fired, and it never happens again. But Domenech's work contains the words of other writers on more than one occasion. Why would Domenech let an editor do that to him again and again? As Atrios asks, How does young Ben explain the fact that a piece he "wrote" about "real parties" seems to have been lifted, pretty much in its entirety, from a P.J. O'Rourke chapter on the same subject? Are we to believe that Domenech supplied his editor with a few words specific to the time and context in which he was "writing" -- the name of a William and Mary sorority, the names of a couple of college officials -- and that the editor filled in the rest with 700 words or so from O'Rourke's book? Are we to believe that Domenech didn't notice the editing job until now?

And if this is really all the fault of Domenech's college newspaper editor, how does that explain questions about the blogger's way with words since then? A Daily Kos poster has discovered a movie review Domenech wrote for the National Review in 2001 that bears a striking resemblance to a review someone else wrote for the Cox News Service. A blogger at Your Logo Here has found a piece Domenech wrote for the New York Press in 2001 that contains a big chunk of words from the Washington Post. (Domenech attributes a single quote to the Post, with no hint of acknowledgment that he lifted most of the seven prior paragraphs from the paper as well.) And in Salon today, Joe Conason outlines the questions surrounding Domenech's use of what seems to be a fabricated quote from Tim Russert.

Domenech may be too young to remember the Washington Post's Janet Cooke debacle -- we know, we know, WashingtonPost.com is an entirely different company -- but he was an adult when the Jayson Blair saga hit the news. Domenech wrote then -- well, at least we think he wrote it -- that Blair's "vile lies" should be given "no quarter." We would have agreed with him then, and we'd expect him to hold himself to the same standard now.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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