News and Commentary

7 Democrats Who Were Caught For Plagiarism, Including Obama And Biden

Melania Trump, wife of real estate mogul Donald Trump, has dominated the news headlines due to the revelation that her speech at the Republican National Convention plagiarized a portion of First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. While that’s certainly a problem, it’s worth noting that plenty of Democrats have been guilty of plagiarism as well. Here are seven of them.

1. President Barack Obama.

During his first presidential campaign, Obama’s speeches featured portions that were almost identical from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s (D) speeches. Here is part of a speech from Patrick in 2006:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’-just words. Just words. ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’-just words. ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’-just words. ‘I have a dream’-just words,” Patrick said in 2006.

And here is part of a speech from Obama in 2008:

“Don’t tell me words don’t matter! ‘I have a dream.’ Just words. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Just words. ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words, just speeches,” Obama said in his speech.

Obama also appears to have used similar language borrowed from Patrick in a 2007 speech:

Patrick in June 2006, at the Massachusetts Democratic party convention: “I am not asking anybody to take a chance on me. I am asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations.”

Obama one year later, as quoted in USA Today: “I am not asking anyone to take a chance on me. I am asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations.”

Obama later acknowledged it would have been better to provide attribution to Patrick in his speech when the Clinton campaign called him out on it in 2008, but deflected the blame onto her, saying: “I noticed Senator Clinton, on occasion, has used words of mine as well.”

Patrick attempted to exonerate his buddy Obama by saying “he shared language from his campaign with Mr. Obama’s speechwriters” in the previous summer, but ABC News pointed out at the time that Obama used the “Just Words” passage before the summer of 2007:

“‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men are created equal.’ Those are just words,” Obama was quoted as saying in a March 19, 2007 New Republic story. ” ‘I have a dream.’ Just words.”

2. Vice President Joe Biden.

When Biden ran for president in 1988, his plagiarism of British politician Neil Kinnock was exposed. Here is Kinnock:

Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? [Pointing to his wife in the audience:] Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick?

And here’s Biden:

I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? [Pointing to his wife in the audience:] Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I’m the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?

Biden eventually had to drop out of the presidential race, as the plagiarism scandal plagued his campaign. Columnist Jeff Lord has also accused Biden of plagiarizing speeches from Robert F. Kennedy.

3. Former Sen. John Walsh (D-MT).

In 2014, a New York Times report found that Walsh had plagiarized “an entire page nearly word-for-word from a Harvard paper, and each of his six conclusions is copied from a document from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace without attribution” in a 2007 paper he wrote to earn his master’s degree at the U.S. Army War College. Walsh initially deflected from the report by citing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from serving in Iraq as a possible “factor” in an interview with the Associated Press.

The Army War College determined that Walsh had in fact plagiarized his paper and rescinded his master’s degree. Walsh eventually dropped out of the 2014 Senate race as a result of his plagiarism.

4. Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA).

In 2015, Bera wrote a column in the Sacramento Bee in favor of the Trade Promotion Authority bill; Buzzfeed determined that Bera duplicated statements from Third Way, Business Roundtable and a White House economic report. Bera eventually admitted to the plagiarism, via Breitbart:

After he was caught, Bera released a statement saying that his position remained unchanged, but he added, “However, after an internal review of our editing process, it has become clear that widely used and disseminated statements made their way into the final draft, and for that I apologize. I take full responsibility for this oversight and will be dealing with the responsible staff internally.”

Dan Morain, the Bee’s editorial page editor, said, “It clearly is a work that borrowed way too heavily from other peoples’ work. I would expect better of people who write op-eds.”

5. Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

Burke, who ran against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in 2014, was busted by Buzzfeed for plagiarizing portions of her economic proposal from “Delaware Gov. Jack Markell in 2008, Ward Cammack of Tennessee in 2009 and John Gregg of Indiana in 2012,” according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Burke, who attempted to minimize the controversy as “a relatively minor mistake,” blamed it on a consultant and fired him.

6. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D).

During the 2014 gubernatorial race, it was determined that parts of Wolf’s “policy on energy efficiency” were plagiarized from Johnson Controls, an energy company in Wisconsin. Wolf severed ties with a consultant over the controversy.

7. Former Democratic senate candidate Gordon Ball.

Ball, who ran for the Senate in 2014 against Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), “appears to have plagiarized nearly every word on his issues pages from a vast array of politicians including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren,” according to Buzzfeed. Ball claimed he didn’t know that the plagiarism had taken place, even though Buzzfeed pointed out that he “used much of the plagiarized text in an interview.”