Alex Spillius – “John McCain accused of plagiarising Wikipedia for speeches”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/uselection2008/johnmccain/2581086/John-McCain-accused-of-plagiarising-Wikipedia-for-speeches.html

John McCain accused of plagiarising Wikipedia for speeches
Senator John McCain’s integrity has been called into question after speeches he made on the campaign trail appeared to contain plagiarised material including some from Wikipedia.

Alex Spillius | August 19, 2008

The veracity of a story often told by the Republican presidential candidate about a communist North Vietnamese prison guard drawing a cross in the sand was queried after he repeated the story during a widely televised forum on faith over the weekend.

It prompted claims by bloggers that he had not only changed the story over the years, but had allegedly made it up or plagiarized a similar story told by the late Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Meanwhile the originality of a speech he made about Georgia has also been placed in doubt after it was found to bear strong similarities to the country’s entry on Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia compiled by the public.

Congressional Quarterly found that two passages from an Aug 11 speech were almost identical to Wikipedia, while a third bore striking resemblances. Wikipedia is freely available to everyone, but its terms of use require attribution.

More serious is the claim that Mr McCain has exaggerated or concocted the prison story, which he periodically uses in his stump speeches and which first appeared in his 1999 memoir Faith of My Fathers, which focused on his five and a half years in a North Vietnamese prison.

In the book Mr McCain told how one Christmas a Vietnamese guard “rather nonchalantly used his sandaled foot to draw a cross in the dirt” in his cell. The two of them stood for a minute or two in silent contemplation.

Bloggers on the liberal Daily Kos website have pointed out that the former naval pilot did not mention this story in a 12,000 word article on his imprisonment written soon after his release in 1973. The story then started appearing in his speeches during his unsuccessful 2000 bid for the Republican nomination.

Similarities were pointed out with a tale in Solzhenitsyn’s bestselling The Gulag Archipelago, in which a fellow prisoner – not a guard – silently drew a cross in the dirt with a stick. Mr McCain has written about his admiration for the late Russian writer.

“I do question if John McCain has, in a mix up of perception or clarity, claimed this story as his own,” wrote one blogger. Another claimed that “maybe it is all just a made up story”.

The McCain campaign did not immediately comment yesterday on the allegations.

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Published in: on August 20, 2008 at 9:32 PM  Leave a Comment  

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