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Brent There, Done That

Brent Bozell picked the wrong week to plagarize himself. Is a suspension in order?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/13/2000

With all the current hubbub over Jeff Jacoby getting suspended from the Boston Globe for borrowing a column idea from an anonymous e-mail, perhaps this wasn't the best time for L. Brent Bozell III to assemble a column from past efforts and others' research.

But there it is. Bozell's July 11 column joins the chorus of conservative whiners annoyed that Dennis Miller was chosen as an announcer for ABC's Monday Night Football and Rush Limbaugh wasn't.

To make his point that Miller is a flaming liberal tossing "slimy barbs" (and Bozell knows all about "slimy barbs"), Bozell dug into the archives of his Media Research Center and two of his own previous columns to unearth moldy Miller quotes.

Let's break down Bozell's sources:

  • Miller's 1994 remarks about Newt Gingrich were first noted in a February 1995 MRC newsletter and resurrected in a June 26 MRC "CyberAlert," a newsletter that details alleged liberal bias.
  • Remarks about former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders originally appeared in a July 1995 MRC newsletter and revived in a June 23 CyberAlert.
  • Remarks about Trent Lott come from a July 1998 Bozell column exerpted in the June 23 CyberAlert.
  • Remarks about the National Rifle Association come from a July 1999 Bozell column.
  • A single example of Miller criticizing a Democrat is cited -- a reference to Hillary Clinton as a "craven careerist." This was plucked from a June 8 CyberAlert.

Yes, Bozell went the Frankenstein route, assembling a column out of the pressed and formed chunks of earlier writings. The body of this column is a cut-and-paste job.

Even the peg on which Bozell hangs the title of the column -- "Did ABC Play Politics with 'MNF'?" -- is lifted from the June 23 CyberAlert, where the section on Miller begins: "A conservative is too controversial for ABC Sports but a conservative-bashing liberal is not? How else do you explain ABC passing over Rush Limbaugh for a spot in the Monday Night Football booth and instead picking Dennis Miller?"

Perhaps Bozell should have put the byline of Brent Baker, the CyberAlert editor, on the column, as Baker's work forms much of it.

Not only is the column hack work, it's misleading as well. Bozell says Miller "is widely and inaccurately viewed as a sardonic, plague-on-both-your-houses impartial critic." Had Bozell -- or, more accurately, his minions at the MRC -- bothered to do any sort of current research, they would have found plenty of examples of Miller barbs aimed at Democrats. He has noted, for instance, that Al Gore "comes across as the slightly desperate manager of a Kinney shoe store in a dying shopping mall, laughing loudly at things that aren't funny, starting every sentence with your first name and trying to convince you that your size-10 foot might actually fit into a size-7 shoe because that brand 'runs big.'" And he has said that Tipper Gore "reminds me of the first girl that Carrie killed at the prom."

Bozell attempts a final punch at the end of his column by suggesting that ABC thought Limbaugh was "too controversial" compared to Miller and then commenting: "Perhaps it also says something about the state of our popular culture that the lack of any public outcry over this choice validates that thinking." More interesting would be how one validates the thinking of a man who recycles his own work and appropriates the work of others without giving them credit.

Maybe we should ask Jeff Jacoby.

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