Domenech apologizes for plagiarism -- and for "obfuscation" in defense

After downplaying charges and lashing out at his critics, the Washingtonpost.com short-timer is all apologies. His conservative colleagues aren't.


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Tim Grieve
March 25, 2006 6:56PM (UTC)

Even as he resigned from his job as a right-wing blogger for Washingtonpost.com, Ben Domenech tried to downplay -- and, in some instances, deny entirely -- charges of serial plagiarism. He continued to blame a college newspaper editor for inserting others' words into his work. He claimed that an article he wrote for the New York Press -- one that tracked a Washington Post story almost word-for-word for the better of seven paragraphs -- was actually based on his own original reporting. He said that P.J. O'Rourke had given him permission to write an ever-so-slightly customized-for-college version of one O'Rourke's pieces -- a claim O'Rourke denies.

At the very worst, Domenech suggested, he'd been a "sloppy teenager" who hadn't done enough while a student at William and Mary to prevent others from soiling his efforts with stolen words. "The idea that the attack machine has gotten to the level where they dig back to your freshman year of college, when youre 17, and say, 'Hey, this guy should have been thinking about the authority of what he was writing the same way that people do at the New York Times,' then, I mean, its idiotic," Domenech said Friday in an interview with Human Events Online. "In a lot of this stuff, its based on who you believe . . . if you believe the lefties are right or if you believe someone who you know and who you've worked with is right. . . . And if you look at the overwhelming bulk of everything Ive written, youll find there is no question about it. The questions are about small things, a lot of them easily explainable, especially the things that come after college.

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The defense wasn't particularly persuasive, and it didn't cover all the ground Domenech needed to cover: A "sloppy teenager" is one thing, but who was that guy stealing part of a Cox News movie review and calling it his own in the National Review in 2001? That may have been the one that put the editors at Washingtonpost.com over the edge; it wasn't from Domenech's college newspaper, it couldn't have been the work of that dastardly newspaper editor -- who may well not have existed in the first place-- and it wasn't all that long ago.

It is also, apparently, the bit of evidence that has forced Domenech to admit that he was wrong. In a post late Friday night at RedState, the conservative blog he helped start before moving on to three days in Red America, Domenech is all apologies, and he starts with the National Review. The post is called "Contrition," and here's what it says: "I want to apologize to National Review Online, my friends and colleagues here at RedState, and to any others that have been affected over the past few days. I also want to apologize to my previous editors and writers whose work I used inappropriately and without attribution. There is no excuse for this - nor is there an excuse for any obfuscation in my earlier statement.

"I hope that nothing I've done as a teenager or in my professional life will reflect badly on the movement and principles I believe in.

"I'm deeply grateful for the love and encouragement of all those around me. And although I may not deserve such support, it makes it that much more humbling at a time like this. I'm a young man, and I hope that in time that I can earn a measure of the respect that you have given me."

It's hard not to feel Domenech's pain, at least for this brief moment. But before anybody goes singing "Kumbaya," check out how Domenech's RedState co-founder Mike Krempasky responds in an "On Behalf of RedState"post put up alongside Domenech's apology. Krempasky says Domenech will take a leave of absence to "wander in the wilderness" for a while, and he expresses high hopes for his ultimate redemption. Then he goes on a rampage against Domenech's accusers and the left more generally:

"Putting aside the charge for which Ben has been pilloried and [what] you're left with is a particular group of critics. Unlike Ben, there is far less hope for their redemption. You see -- before they settled on the attacks on his writing -- they spent three days proving that they are the lowest of the low. Charges of racism were born of poor reading comprehension. Threats of violence. Obscene commentary about his mother, his sister, his father. Loathesome, vile, and disgusting - their contempt for civil behavior surpassed only by the emptiness of their own souls. These are a people that see a man who gives up drinking in the middle of his life for the sake of his family, and respond by creating rumors of cocaine addiction. These are ignoramuses that think portraying an African-American politician as Sambo is appropriate, as long as the critics are liberal and the target is a Republican.

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"Our critics can raise their glasses and toast to what they think is success -- tearing down a flawed conservative. But therein lies their greatest weakness: destroying a conservative is not to destroy conservatism. And while they put all their energy and venom into this campaign, it is worth remembering that for all the noise -- they have yet to present a real alternative to an America that rests on the foundation of freedom, free markets and family. Against that, the only answer they have is yet another personal attack."


Tim Grieve

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

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