Sen. Rand Paul has taken to lashing out at the media outlets that have been pointing out plagiarism in his speeches, but one of the outlets that's been on the beat, BuzzFeed, is more familiar than others with what it's like to be called out for taking the work of others.
Paul has been accused of lifting material from think tank reports, Wikipedia, and other sources to provide material for his books and speeches. (Among the appropriations: an extended summary of the movie Gattaca.) The Kentucky senator has largely been unapologetic for the behavior, telling National Review's Robert Costa that his office would change its policies to avoid future problems. But, Costa writes, "Paul’s repentant tone ended there."
Paul was furious, especially with the press coverage of the allegations. “It annoys the hell out of me,” Paul said. “I feel like if I could just go to detention after school for a couple days, then everything would be okay. But do I have to be in detention for the rest of my career?” ...
“What makes me mad about the whole thing is that I believe there is a difference between errors of omission and errors of intention,” he said. “We aren’t perfect and we have made errors of omission, but we never intended to mislead anybody.”
The latest round of accusations against Paul were dug up by BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski, whose specialty is searching archives to uncover embarrassing details about politicians. When he reported over the weekend that several pages of Paul's book Government Bullies came from the Heritage Foundation, BuzzFeed went into a full-court press on social media, with promotion from editors (as at right) and staffers across the spectrum.
None of them found this ironic. Kaczynski works on what BuzzFeed called its "Serious" side in an ad it placed in the most recent Columbia Journalism Review in which it showed how its journalism can live side-by-side with its "Fun" listicles. At the bottom, it thanks the site's 60 million visitors for their traffic. Most of that traffic — including most of the traffic in the articles listed in the ad — comes from the "fun" side. And it's on the "Fun" side that BuzzFeed has had a repeated problem with exactly the sort of appropriation for which the "Serious" side criticized Paul.