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WorldNetDaily's Plagiarism Problem

WND has been stealing the content of others for years, but the theft has seriously ramped up in the past couple of months.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/1/2012

On Jan. 1, WorldNetDaily officially changed its name to WND and debuted the first major redesign of its website since its founding in 1997. Editor Joseph Farah reassured readers: "About the only thing that will remain is the mission and the founding commitment to independent investigative reporting that is second to none in exposing fraud, waste, abuse and corruption in government and other powerful institutions in need of watchdogging."

There's one other thing that didn't change: WND's habit of plagiarizing and outright stealing the content of others to put under its own name.

This has been a longtime problem at WND; it has been stealing content from other websites as early as 2003 (and probably earlier), and WND admitted to using "unattributed research and quotations" in one 2003 article. Further, far-right activist Debbie Schlussel has long accused WND of using her story ideas without proper credit.

This attitude comes straight from the top -- ConWebWatch has documented Farah himself plagiarizing the content of a Reuters article without attribution. Of course, Farah has hypocritically inveighed against other media outlets he claims have stolen WND's work.

Since then, there have been numerous examples of WND stealing, intentionally or otherwise, the work of others -- a spate of which occurred in the past few months.

Corsi's "trusted Kenyan professionals"

A Dec. 19 WorldNetDaily article by Jerome Corsi purported to depict how "A school named for Barack Obama in Kenya has abandoned hope that the U.S. president will honor a pledge he made as senator to finance it." Corsi attributes the reporting to "a report in Kenya commissioned by WND," compiled by "a former Kenyan Parliament member with whom WND has worked confidentially since 2008." Corsi added, "The research was assigned to trusted Kenyan professionals who conducted the field work and reported their findings in writing."

As so frequently happens at WND, Corsi's "researchers" are anonymous, meaning that there is no way to independently verify what they report. As it turns out, though, these supposedly "trusted Kenyan professionals" can't be trusted at all.

Loren Collins at the Barackryphal blog looked into Corsi's story and found that large parts of it are taken directly -- and, in many cases, nearly word-for-word -- from two previous articles, a 2008 article in the London Evening Standard and a May 2011 AFP article. Collins concluded: "In short, every single quote or finding specifically attributed to Corsi's unnamed 'researchers' was lifted from an earlier publication by another news agency."

Collins also documented line by line how Corsi's article was directly lifted from those two articles.

On top of that, Collins writes, at least one of the photos that accompanies Corsi's article is a copyrighted image used without attribution -- and, presumably, permission.

WND later added a note to the beginning of Corsi's article:

Editor's note: The following article is based on a paid, 8,000-word report by Kenyan researchers commissioned by WND. Unknown to WND, the report included unattributed references to a July 25, 2008, story by the Evening Standard of London. WND included a link to the 2008 story to back up the claims of the report, which WND believed was original. WND regrets the error.

WND appears to have left the rest of the article intact, including the now-laughable reference to the "trusted Kenyan professionals."

The note, however, failed to address the main issue here: If this report from "Kenyan researchers" is so heavily plagiarized, why should anyone trust it? And given Corsi's history of obtaining fraudulent documents from Kenya, why should anyone trust anything Corsi reports that involves Kenya? The editor's note also fails to address the other issues Collins identified with Corsi's article -- the AFP article that was also apparently plagiarized and the copyrighted photo that was presented without attribution.

WND has much more about Corsi's article it needs to express "regret" for.

More plagiarism, plus theft

After that incident, Collins documented more instances of plagiarism at WND:

  • A Dec. 9 article by Aaron Klein cribbed liberally from a CNN op-ed by William Bennett without attribution.
  • A Nov. 22 column by Joseph Farah copied statements made in articles by the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times.

This was followed by WND crediting another reporter's work to a WND writer.

A Jan. 5 article on the WND website touts how a new Bible translation "has had its verses on homosexuality reworded, making them clearer in denouncing the practice," and carries the byline of WND news editor Felicia Dionisio (screenshot).

In fact, click on "read the full story" at the end of that short article, and it takes you to the Christian Post website, where the full article carries the byline of Michael Gryboski -- not Dionisio.

One might attribute this to a production error due to unfamiliarity with WND's new website layout, but WND has a long history of appropriating the work of others for its own purposes.

Fair use?

This, by the way, doesn't count WND's longtime practice of simply copying parts of stories onto its own website, then linking back to the original (as demonstrated here and here). Sometimes, as in this excerpt, WND doesn't even bother to credit the publisher of the original article, simply providing a link to the full article.

This enters the sticky wicket of "fair use" on the Internet, where standards are a bit murky. While individual bloggers and other nonprofit operations regularly make use of linking to the work of others -- the purpose for which "fair use" exists -- WND is a for-profit, Delaware-incorporated company, and it seems to be hiding behind "fair use" in order to avoid paying for news copy it uses to draw readers to WND.

As far as can be determined, WND subscribes to no wire service that would normally supply such copy. As a former newspaper editor, Farah certainly knows how wire services work -- and that he would get sued for theft if he was appropriating copy for a newspaper the way he does for WND.

Chuck Norris

Even WND's columnists are not immune from the plagiarism bug.

Wonkette discovered that Chuck Norris -- whose column was launched by WND and is now in syndication -- copied parts of his April 25, 2011, column word-for-word from other sources without giving them credit. Wonkette later learned that Norris plagiarizes on a surprisingly regular basis.

Wonkette also deduced that Norris doesn't actually write his columns, plagiarized or otherwise; his pastor, Todd DuBord, does. If that name sounds familiar, it's because WND has promoted DuBord's claims that religion (specifically, Christianity) is being whitewashed out of historical sites like the Supreme Court and Jamestown, and not-so-historical sites like the U.S. Capitol's visitor's center. WND has also touted how DuBord tallied the supposed "ongoing trend" of President Obama not directly quoting references to God in the Declaration of Independence.

WND has remained silent about the plagiarism of Norris (or, should we say, DuBord).

Beyond the website

Even non-website WND works are tainted by plagiarism. The Barackryphal blog has documented how Brad O'Leary, in his factually challenged Obama attack book "The Audacity of Deceit" -- which WND published in 2008 -- lifted several paragraphs of a WND article by Aaron Klein almost word-for-word without attribution.

WND's conspiracy-licious birther video "A Question of Eligibility" contains one particularly blatant example of theft. As the Washington Independent detailed, the "documentary" includes a video of Fox News clips compiled by the liberal-leaning watchdog group Media Matters. But while Media Matters used the video to mock Fox News' overheated rhetoric regarding the president’s first 100 days in office, "A Question of Eligibility" treats it, in the Independent's words, "like pages from the Gospels."

Not only did WND fail to give Media Matters credit for making the compilation, the videomakers themselves are hiding behind anonymity, ostensibly because, according to the end credits, "They fear reprisals from their government." More likely it's because they didn't want their names associated with such a slapdash piece of work that steals from others.

There's even some apparently plagiarism going on the birther-witness front. Barackryphal caught some irregularities in the affidavit of Kweli Shuhubia, a translator enlisted by Obama-hating Anabaptist minister Ron McRae in his notorious phone call to Obama's grandmother in Kenya. WND's Jerome Corsi has promoted the affidavits by McRae and Shuhubia as evidence that the grandmother said Obama was born in Kenya. Not only is Shuhubia a pseudonym and his affidavit un-notarized, part of it appears to be cribbed from McRae's own affidavit.

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