Accused plagiarist Arnaud de Borchgrave, the longtime Washington Times and United Press International columnist, has friends in high places and he isn't hesitating to call on them in his own defense. But he seems to be leaning on one name more than others: Marvin Kalb, one of the most celebrated figures of television journalism. The Washington Post's Erik Wemple first reported the close similarities between portions of de Borchgrave's columns and other journalists's material. Other media critics have followed. But on Wednesday morning he released several statements to Politico in which he said he "felt vindicated" of plagiarism charges after hearing from prominent friends. Kalb, who after more than 30 years of working for NBC and CBS News and currently holds the title of the Edward R. Murrow Professor of Practice, Emeritus at the Harvard Kennedy School, merited three mentions by de Borchgrave:
- "I have been the happy recipient of scores of supporting letters from prominent personalities, ranging from Marvin Kalb to Jim Jones, Zbig Brzezinski, Judge Bill Sessions, who understand that inadvertently dropping quotation marks was not plagiarism."
- "The column I wrote yesterday prompted more favorable responses — including Marvin Kalb — from prominent Washington players."
- "Yesterday’s column which prompted favorable responses throughout the day yesterday, beginning with Marvin Kalb. If I can pass muster with the dean of American journalism, and scores of other prominent personalities on both sides of the aisle, I can only assume that the nay sayers are not acquainted with all the facts in this case."
Since Kalb was cited as having acquitted de Borchgrave on the plagiarism charges, we thought we should check in with the distinguished journalist himself to hear what he thought about the incident.
"I don't know Erik Wemple so I don't know if he's 31 or 81," Kalb told The Atlantic Wire. "I just feel that reporters who appear to derive a degree of pleasure from attacking Arnaud are reporters who would be wise to check the whole man—to check his entire background before they let him have it. Because it isn't fair to do it in the way it's been done. In the degree that journalism is an effort to be fair in the presentation of facts, I don't think that's an effort at fairness."
Explaining his position, Kalb emphasized that de Borchgrave apologized for his mistakes and vowed to never do it again. He also noted that de Borchgrave has had a tremendous career, and helped him personally when he was a young reporter.
I take allegations of plagiarism very seriously and my record will demonstrate that. The issue is ... is Arnaud de Borchgrave a plagiarist? There were one or two examples that were cited that clearly crossed the line. And Arnaud then acknowledged and apologized for it and said he wouldn't do it anymore. Given the fact that Arnaud De Borchgrave has a record of incredible courage under fire as a reporter and a guy who spent decades covering every single diplomatic story that existed—if it comes to a certain point in his life, I believe he's 85, and he makes a mistake, you can be sure once he's called out on it he's not going to do it anymore."
Responding to Kalb's criticism, Wemple took a much narrower look at the question of plagiarism. "Unfortunately, stories about literary excesses don't need and shouldn't have to have a biographical component," he said. "I'm not his biographer. I just looked at his work and I think that the foothold of the stories speak for themselves." Wemple went on to explain that he sought out de Borchgrave for comment and tried multiple times to get the Washington Times to comment. "I let people draw their own conclusions. That's all." You can see Wemple's breakdown of how other people's sentences appeared nearly verbatim and unattributed in de Borchgrave's columns here.