Fareed Zakaria: More Plagiarism but Still at Washington Post, CNN

Fareed Zakaria, virtually omnipresent foreign policy maven of mainstream media, has been caught plagiarizing again. But the host of Cable News Network’s “Fareed Zakaria’s G.P.S.,” Washington Post columnist and writer for TIME, Newsweek et. al., still has friends in the right places. It’s called protexia in contemporary Hebrew.


Viewers and readers mindful of lower profile journalists disciplined or fired for similar or lesser wrongdoing may wonder: “For how much longer?”


CAMERA has highlighted Zakaria, 50, as a serial offender—erroneous, credulous and anti-Israel—when it comes to commenting on Arab-Israeli affairs (see below).


He was suspended briefly by CNN and TIME for plagiarism in a 2012 column about gun control.


Now, according to Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt, he is guilty of improper sourcing, not outright stealing of other journalists’ work (“Post finds ‘problematic’ sourcing in some Zakaria columns,” online, Nov. 11, 2014)  The Washington Post’s editorial page has found ‘problematic’ sourcing in five columns written by Fareed Zakaria and will likely note the lack of attribution in archived editions of the articles,” wrote the newspaper’s media reporter, Paul Farhi.


Hiatt “said he would act after the anonymously written blog Our Bad Media on Monday [November 10] posted, side-by-side, excerpts from six Zakaria’s columns and work published earlier by other writers. Zakaria used language that was identical, or strikingly similar, to what others had written.”


The print edition of The Post on November 13 carried “A Note to Readers” at the bottom of the Op-Ed page: “The Post has added notes of explanation and apology to the online versions of four columns by Fareed Zakaria that insufficiently attributed sources materials. The columns are ‘Obama’s Asia opening,’ which was published Nov. 5, 2010; ‘The gridlock we can fix,’ July 21, 2011; ‘Think jobs, not debt,” Aug. 18, 2011; and ‘Lessons from abroad,’ Jan. 19, 2012.” Farhi’s online article about the affair did not appear in a Post print edition.


But wait, theres more
There’s more to Zakaria’s latest run-ins with journalism standards, according to POLITICO’s media blogger Dylan Byers. Byers took note of Our Bad Media’s investigation of several dozen Zakaria commentaries and programs two months ago. He asked two specialists in journalistic practice to review them. The conclusion: Zakaria passed off others’ work as his (“The Wrongs of Fareed Zakaria, September 17).


Robert Drechsel, the James E. Burgess chair and director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Kelly McBride, the vice president for academic programs of The Poynter Institute, examined Our Bad Media’s critiques. “They came to the same conclusion I did,” Byers wrote. “Zakaria plagiarized.”


“‘Most of the examples provided and analyzed by the bloggers seem to fall into the realm of what is now being called “patch writing”—using material generated by someone else, without attribution, but rewritten slightly so one cannot call it verbatim copying,’ Drechsel wrote in an email to POLITICO. ‘It falls within what I would consider plagiarism. Other examples cited by the bloggers do appear to be verbatim.”


McBride wrote “it’s plagiarism. Low-level. But plagiarism.”


When suspended previously, Zakaria pleaded he was “over-extended” and promised to “simplify” his schedule. But close examination suggests a deeper, chronic problem.


This summer The Washington Post, at CAMERA’s request, corrected in print columnist Zakaria’s error that “Israel and the West,” not the Palestinian Authority, long had delayed new elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But online, Zakaria’s own posting was a snide and grudging acknowledgement that still managed a dig at Israel and other Western countries (“Washington Post Corrects Another Fareed Zakaria Error,” August 18).


Last spring, CAMERA cited a March 28 commentary by Zakaria for “scattering self-contradictory generalities in the wake of President Obama’s trip to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank” (“Columnists Fail ‘Breath-a-lyzer’ Test for Op-Eds on Obama’s Israel Trip,” March 29). Zakaria criticized “both hard-line supporters of Israel and advocates of peace” for clinging “to the notion of the Jewish state as deeply vulnerable.”


Discounting Iran, Hezbollah and Israeli security
CAMERA noted that the columnist never mentioned Iran’s reported nuclear weapons program or its urgings that Israel be wiped off the map, was silent on Hezbollah’s tens of thousands of short and medium
-range missiles in Lebanon, discounted Palestinian terrorism—four Israelis have been murdered in attacks in the past two weeks—and omitted Israel’s vulnerability inside the pre-1967 armistice lines, which left it four miles wide just west of Jerusalem, less than nine miles just north of Tel Aviv.


Four years ago, Zakaria—once named by Foreign Policy magazine as “one of the top 100 global thinkers”—cited Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon, riven by sectarian differences, as a beacon of religious comity. Despite genocidal desires against Jews expressed by senior Hezbollah figures, he offered the Iranian-backed terrorist organization’s ostensible anti-Israel, not anti-Jewish stance as “food for thought” (“Fareed Zakaria Casts Hezbollah as a Model of Religious Tolerance,” Aug. 26, 2010).  One thought is that what was left of Lebanon’s tiny Jewish community was virtually extinguished during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war, with several of its leaders murdered, apparently by Islamic extremists. 


Zakaria is telegenic. His CNN program, on which he’s interviewed world leaders, has won an Emmy. Two of his books on foreign affairs have been New York Times best sellers. But that doesn’t make him a journalist, not if he’s a serial plagiarist.


The two bloggers at Our Bad Media reportedly are not letting up. The headline on Dylan Byers’ POLITICO follow-up read “Fareed Zakaria’s anonymous pursuers: We’re not done yet; Plagiarism detectives have been waging a campaign to brand him as a copycat artist” (November 13).


Zakaria’s admirers continued to defend him. They term the highlighted instances of plagiarism or “patch writing” insignificant, especially in terms of what they call his prodigious output. Lloyd Grove, a Washington Post veteran now at a news and entertainment Web site called The Daily Beast, referred to Our Bad Media as “a pair of pathetically uncredentialed, no-account bloggers …. (“Can Fareed Zakaria Survive a Plagiarism Firestorm,” November 12).”


Zakaria, in Grove’s eyes, is “imperially slim and darkly handsome, possessed of an insinuating charm and a cultured manner of speech that recalls the British Raj. … [H]e’s a prized dinner gusset in Upper East Side salons and an occasional adviser on world affairs to President Obama.” Telegenic indeed.


But CAMERA suspects that if he were scrutinized on substance and as Fred Zach from Iowa, for example, not Fareed Zakaria from Mumbai, India by way of Yale and Harvard universities (bachelor of arts and doctorate, respectively), but saying the same things, his television show might have been on cable community access, his columns in the local weekly.


Al Capone famously went to prison for tax fraud, not leading an organized crime syndicate. If a Zakaria deflation results from plagiarism, not analytical devaluation, journalism and policy advocacy both still will be well served.

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