Media outlets reported allegations Biden plagiarized Kinnock, but not that he had previously credited him

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

The Los Angeles Times reported that when Sen. Joe Biden ran for president in 1987, he "was accused of plagiarism when he did not credit Neil Kinnock, then leader of the British Labor Party, for much of his stump speech." The New York Times and the Associated Press made similar reports. But they did not note that Biden reportedly had credited Kinnock, as The Washington Post reported at the time: "John Quinlan, a reporter for the Sioux City Journal, said his notes showed Biden said he was quoting Kinnock when he used the same passage in a speech Aug. 14. Stories in The [New York] Times, The Boston Globe and other newspapers also said Biden had used the rhetoric and credited Kinnock for it."

In an August 23 article on Sen. Barack Obama's selection of Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) as his vice-presidential running mate, the Los Angeles Times reported that "when he ran for president in 1988, Biden was accused of plagiarism when he did not credit Neil Kinnock, then leader of the British Labor Party, for much of his stump speech." Similarly, in an August 23 article, The New York Times reported that Biden "was forced to quit the 1988 presidential race in the face of accusations that he had plagiarized part of a speech from Neil Kinnock," and in an August 23 article, the Associated Press reported that Biden's 1988 run for president "ended badly" after he "was caught lifting lines from a speech by British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock." But those articles did not note that while Biden did not attribute portions of a Kinnock speech he paraphrased during an August 23, 1987, Democratic presidential primary debate, and during an August 26, 1987, interview for the National Education Association, Biden reportedly had credited Kinnock. According to a September 13, 1987, Washington Post article, "Biden and reporters covering his campaign said that in speeches before and after that debate the senator has given Kinnock credit for the same passionate rhetoric, which he has used repeatedly in recent weeks." Specifically, the Post reported that "John Quinlan, a reporter for the Sioux City Journal, said his notes showed Biden said he was quoting Kinnock when he used the same passage in a speech Aug. 14. Stories in The [New York] Times, The Boston Globe and other newspapers also said Biden had used the rhetoric and credited Kinnock for it."

In contrast with the August 23 Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and AP articles, an August 23 Chicago Tribune article reported:

Twenty years ago, Biden was, in a sense, the Obama of his time, a young turk of a politician with a gift for soaring, transcendental rhetoric. But his first bid for the presidency imploded in 1988 when he was accused of plagiarizing a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock that described the candidate's working-class roots. Biden was forced from the race after the campaign of eventual nominee Michael Dukakis circulated a videotape with Biden failing to give credit to Kinnock for a speech he gave in Iowa.

Biden, however, had credited Kinnock with the remarks in his other speeches, leaving many of his supporters at the time -- and long after -- feeling like Biden was pushed from the stage unfairly.

From the September 13, 1987, Washington Post article, by staff writer Eleanor Randolph (retrieved from the Nexis news database):

Campaign aides to Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) reacted angrily yesterday to a report that a fellow Democratic contender for the presidential nomination had given at least one journalist a videotape suggesting that Biden plagiarized a campaign speech of British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.

Biden himself said he wasn't angry, adding that his rivals may be "a little worried there's some movement" toward him in the race for the Democratic nomination.

The tape, which yesterday's Des Moines Register described as the first example of an "attack video" launched by a political rival, showed an excerpt of a widely discussed Kinnock commercial from last summer's British general election and then an excerpt from an Aug. 23 debate in Iowa in which Biden borrowed the British leader's words.

Biden did appear to drop his own family something of a notch downward on the economic and social scale to appear more like Kinnock. But Biden and reporters covering his campaign said that in speeches before and after that debate the senator has given Kinnock credit for the same passionate rhetoric, which he has used repeatedly in recent weeks -- and in a speech Friday night in Philadelphia.

"I've been using it all over," Biden said in a telephone interview. He acknowledged failing to credit Kinnock Aug. 23 but said many members of that Iowa audience had heard the same words, fully credited to the Briton, in other campaign appearances.

[...]

The Kinnock commercial, which was part of a Labor Party broadcast that many British viewers saw as an American-style advertisement, showed the Welshman saying at one point: "Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? ... Was it because our predecessors were thick? ... Was it because they were weak, those people who could work eight hours underground [as coal miners] and come up and play football, weak? ... It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand."

Biden, in the Aug. 23 debate said: "Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? ... Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I'm the first Biden in ... generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest? ... Was it that they didn't work hard, my ancestors who worked in the coal mines of Northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours? ... It's because they didn't have a platform upon which to stand."

Biden aides said yesterday that Biden began using the Kinnock rhetoric in August and had credited Kinnock on virtually every other occasion when he used it. John Quinlan, a reporter for the Sioux City Journal, said his notes showed Biden said he was quoting Kinnock when he used the same passage in a speech Aug. 14.

Stories in The Times, The Boston Globe and other newspapers also said Biden had used the rhetoric and credited Kinnock for it.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.