Oliver North is in hot water after attributing a quote in one of his columns to the wrong Vietnam war veteran, and now we know the quote belongs to a Vietnam veteran who's also a journalism professor, and that North lied about how he came across the quotation in the first place.
The controversy began with this Oliver North Memorial day column where he attributed this passage to Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis:
I asked my dear friend Sammy Davis why it is important for Vietnam veterans to gather for this commemoration. He said, "Comrades gather because they long to be with the men who once acted their best, men who suffered and sacrificed, who were stripped raw, right down to their humanity." Of the men he served with, he added: "I did not pick these men. They were delivered by fate. But I know them in a way I know no other men. I have never given anyone such trust. They were willing to guard something more precious than my life. They would have carried my reputation, the memory of me. It was part of the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to die for one another."
Certainly a great quote, except the words don't belong to Sammy Davis. They're from a 1990 book by Michael Norman called "These Good Men: Friendships Forged in War." Norman, a Vietnam veteran, is also a journalism professor at NYU, so he's not the ideal person to plagiarize. Plagiarizing anyone is wrong, but plagiarizing the Vietnam veteran who teaches journalism isn't a practice we would advise.
The Creators Syndicate, the company responsible for syndicating North's columns, told their clients to take the column down once they found out about the incorrectly attributed passage. But it still lives in its original form on the NRA website we linked to, and a few other places.
"I’d just like them to give a clear account of how this happened," Norman told The Washington Post. "So far, they’ve been anything but clear." North said that Davis sent him the quotations in an email and didn't credit Norman. North thought the words were Davis's and included them in the column.
To that point, Sammy Davis was starting to look pretty bad. He apparently emailed a quote from one writer to be used as a comment for another writer's column. Except now Davis is saying he was never contacted by North for his Memorial day column at all.
Davis wrote an email to Norman saying North never asked him for a comment, and never asked if the quote could be used in his column. Apparently Davis regularly emails quotations "that are patriotic in nature or reflect on our experiences in combat." Davis said he received Norman's passage from a friend and passed it on to North in an unsolicited email. Just one vet emailing a patriotic quote to another vet. "It was NEVER my intention to have it published and certainly not to have it attributed to me," Davis wrote.
Norman, for one, is pissed at Oliver North. Originally he was disappointed the column, "put one Vietnam vet in contention with another Vietnam vet." But after getting the email from Davis, he told the Washington Post's Paul Farhi he was angry, "one veteran [North] threw another veteran [Davis] under the bus."
North declined to comment to the Post on the accusations through his attorney. As far as we can tell, he's faced no repercussions for his column so far, except for angering Norman and Davis. We suspect he won't be getting those unsolicited emails from Davis anymore.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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