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Merchants of Myth? Former New York Times Executive Editor Accused of Plagiarism

© AFP 2022 / EMMANUEL DUNAND/FILESPeople walk by the entrance to US newspaper 'The New York Times' in New York
People walk by the entrance to US newspaper 'The New York Times' in New York - Sputnik International
Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor at the New York Times in the newspaper’s 160-year history, is battling accusations that she plagiarized several parts of her new book, “Merchants of Truth.”

The important question to keep in mind here is whether the plagiarized excerpts were accidental or intentional, award-winning cartoonist Ted Rall told Loud & Clear on Radio Sputnik. "I think whether the public mind decides to forgive a journalist or an author for plagiarism tends to go to their state of mind — is this just a screw up in research? Did she just cut and paste a quote from somewhere, then forget to insert the footnote in Microsoft Word? Or is it something more troubling?" Rall asked.

"This is the thing that always surprises me about situation like this is that the person accused of plagiarism almost always doubles down. When Jill Abramson was on Fox News yesterday [Wednesday], she said, ‘All I can tell you is I certainly didn't plagiarize in my book, and there's 70 pages of footnotes showing where I got the information,'" commented Loud & Clear co-host John Kiriakou.

"I was up all night going through my book because I take these claims of plagiarism so seriously," Abramson said in a statement Thursday to the Washington Post.

Vice correspondent Michael Moynihan wrote, "*All three* chapters on Vice were clotted with mistakes. The truth promised in ‘Merchants of Truth' was often not true. While trying to corroborate certain claims, I noticed it also contained… plagiarized passages," in a tweet Wednesday.

​"The notes don't match up with the right pages in a few cases, and this was unintentional and will be promptly corrected," Abramson said in response to accusations of wrongdoing, adding that "the language is too close in some cases and should have been cited as quotations in text."

"This, too, will be fixed," the former NYT editor promised, noting that all of the ideas in 500-plus page book were "original… The passages in question involve facts that should have been perfectly cited in my footnotes and weren't."

When Abramson left NYT in 2014, publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. told a "stunned" newsroom the editor's dismissal was because of "an issue with management," the newspaper reported. Abramson was reported to have clashed with Managing Editor Dean Baquet and Sulzberger Jr. himself. Employees griped she was "polarizing" and "mercurial," according to the newspaper. Abramson apparently set Baquet off by seeking to hire an editor from The Guardian, Janine Gibson, and install Gibson as the new co-managing editor — all without telling Baquet. It's difficult to believe someone with a profile like Abramson would be able to publish a book without it receiving intense public scrutiny.

Last month, at least two other scandals arose over Abramson's book.

The first was when former Vice correspondent Danny Gold said that Abramson erroneously claimed he failed to wear protective gear while covering the Ebola crisis in Liberia. "Like every other reporter there, I was told by experts not to walk around with a PPE unless you were in the ICU," Gold wrote. PPE stands for personal protective equipment.

​"I also worked alongside Times reporters, who a. Gave me that advice and b. Did the same," wrote Gold, now a correspondent at the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

Then, current Vice correspondent Arielle Duhaime-Ross said that Abramson made six errors about her, including wrongly calling her a transgender woman. "During our chat, I told her I'm a queer, gender non-conforming woman. She didn't ask for an explanation. She didn't ask for my pronouns," Duhaime-Ross in early January.

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