Media Blog

Obama Plagiarizing Tom Toles?

Words?  Just words?

On Tuesday, for the third time in four days, Obama borrowed a lengthy bubble quote from Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles. He did not acknowledge the origin of the quote the first time he used it and credited the cartoon only after the Post contacted the Obama campaign to ask about the first use.
“John McCain says he’s about change, too. And so, I guess his whole angle is, ‘Watch out, George Bush. Except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics … we’re really gonna shake things up in Washington,’” Obama said during a rally Tuesday in Lebanon, Va.
As it turns out, Toles’ cartoon in The Washington Post last Friday depicted McCain addressing the White House with the caption: “Watch out, Mr. Bush! With the exception of economic policy and energy policy and social issues and tax policy and foreign policy and Supreme Court appointments and Rove-style politics, we’re coming in there to shake things up!”
Click here to see the cartoon.
Obama delivered the same applause line during speeches in Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday and Farmington Hills, Mich., on Monday. Only during the Monday event did he attribute the line to a cartoonist.
“You know, there was a cartoon the other day, it’s true,” he said before repeating the line. “So this is just a bunch of empty talk.”
Asked about the lifting of Toles’ line, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said that the candidate did not initially know the source of the line, which he had gotten from a friend.
“This came to Senator Obama from a friend who didn’t indicate where he had gotten it from, but the questions it raises certainly continue to ring true,” LaBolt told
“He did not know it was from a cartoon and when he was informed that it was, he credited the cartoonist.” LaBolt said.
Toles told that after the first use, Post editors got in touch with the campaign and Obama made sure to credit Toles when he used the line on Monday. But in Tuesday’s speech, he again used the line without referencing the cartoon.
Toles said he is OK with Obama’s use of his line now that it has gotten credit.
“Of course, I don’t do cartoons for this purpose,” Toles said. “But if they’re cited with attribution, I think I’m all right with it.”
He added that he was unsure how he felt about Obama using his line without citation the first time.
“I thought about it, but didn’t come to a conclusion,” he said.
But the almost word-for-word repetition of Toles’s cartoon bubble led Warner Todd Hudson of the Media Research Center to question Obama’s reliance on the comics for his attacks on McCain.
“Are we to understand that the Obama campaign is now being programmed by cartoons?” Hudson asked. “And will the old media confront Obama on his little theft from a cartoon?”