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Did Zakaria Borrow from The New Yorker?



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In my critique today of Fareed Zakaria’s pro-gun-control column, I point out that he uses the exact same language as The New Yorker, save a comma — “the court agreed[,] unanimously” — to describe how the Supreme Court, in 1939, reacted to a prosecutor’s brief claiming that the Second Amendment does not apply outside of a militia context. I noticed this because I had written about the New Yorker piece as well, and this description of the court decision is simply not accurate.

Newsbusters reports that another passage is strikingly similar as well. Here is Zakaria:

Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, documents the actual history in Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. Guns were regulated in the U.S. from the earliest years of the Republic. Laws that banned the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813. Other states soon followed: Indiana in 1820, Tennessee and Virginia in 1838, Alabama in 1839 and Ohio in 1859. Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas (Texas!) explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”

And here is The New Yorker:

As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”

Too close for comfort? It’s hard to say, but several strings of words are reproduced verbatim, and I think most writers would have at least thrown in a reference to the source.

Hat tip to the The Atlantic Wire.

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Time e-mails: “TIME takes any accusation of plagiarism by any of our journalists very seriously, and we will carefully examine the facts before saying anything else on the matter.”

UPDATE II: Zakaria’s apology, via The Atlantic Wire:

Media reporters have pointed out that paragraphs in my Time column this week bear close similarities to paragraphs in Jill Lepore’s essay in the April 22nd issue of The New Yorker. They are right. I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault. I apologize unreservedly to her, to my editors at Time, and to my readers. 

UPDATE III: A new statement from Time:

TIME accepts Fareed’s apology, but what he did violates our own standards for our columnists, which is that their work must not only be factual but original; their views must not only be their own but their words as well. As a result, we are suspending Fareed’s column for a month, pending further review.

UPDATE IV: . . . and a statement from CNN:

We have reviewed Fareed Zakaria’s TIME column, for which he has apologized. He wrote a shorter blog post on CNN.com on the same issue which included similar unattributed excerpts. That blog post has been removed and CNN has suspended Fareed Zakaria while this matter is under review.



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