As Ben Domenech can tell you, far-right writers can get away with a lot of vitriolic nonsense, but plagiarism can be a career-killer. Unfortunately for Ann Coulter, she's not only facing credible accusations, she has some of her more powerful critics grabbing hold of this story -- and they're not letting go.
To briefly recap, John Barrie, creator of the iThenticate plagiarism-probing system, concluded that Ann Coulter has repeatedly used words that are not her own in her syndicated column and best-selling book. As Editor & Publisher reported, Barrie, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, where he specialized in pattern recognition, claimed to find at least three examples of what he called "textbook plagiarism" in Coulter's latest book and discovered verbatim copying in Coulter's weekly column.
Under pressure, Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes Coulter's column to more than 100 newspapers, announced this week that it would investigate the charges. Today, Media Matters' David Brock took the issue one step further, contacting Coulter's publishers, requesting that they follow up as well. After detailing multiple instances of alleged plagiarism, Brock explained:
Coulter has exhibited a pattern of behavior suggesting that Godless itself may include other examples of plagiarism beyond those Barrie has already identified. Now that the newspaper syndicate that publishes Coulter's column has indicated it will investigate the charges, we urge Random House to undertake a comprehensive review and consider all appropriate action, up to and including pulling the book. Coulter's unethical conduct, as evidenced through the instances of plagiarism identified in her columns, and manifested in the book itself, does not only tarnish Coulter; if immediate action is not taken, it will soon reflect poorly on Random House.
Coulter's employers may find it hard, if not impossible, to ignore letters like this one. Coulter may be a big money-maker for Random House, but professional standards demand a thorough review of the plagiarism charges. And one gets the distinct impression that Media Matters isn't going to let it slide if Coulter's publishers fail to act quickly and thoroughly.
To be sure, Coulter's bosses and allies will stand by her when she recommends killing war heroes or jokes about murdering Supreme Court justices, just so long as her words are her own. But if Coulter has stolen text from others without attribution, she's on her own.