Accuracy in Media

The story by Lauren Wiseman ran in the Washington Post under the headline, “Following the Roots of a People’s History.” It was about a sculpture in Annapolis, Maryland, featuring a life-size bronze statue of Alex Haley reading to children. It’s one of three parts of the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial.

Haley, of course, is recognized as the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Roots. He was also a plagiarist. Few in the media want to talk about that, however. It certainly wasn’t mentioned in the Wiseman story.

This matter was brought to my attention by a concerned Annapolitan, who expressed outrage over a statue memorializing a plagiarist and perjurer.

Haley, of course, claimed that Roots was based on his own research and family history, and that his African ancestor was someone named Kunta Kinte.

AIM founder Reed Irvine noted, however, that “Roots was fiction and plagiarized fiction to boot.” Reed noted that Haley denied that he had ever read The African, a novel by Harold Courlander, but that in December 1978, Haley and his publisher agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Courlander for over $500,000.

In a column, Reed added, “Courlander charged that Haley had not only copied over 80 passages from his book, but that he had copied ‘language, thoughts, attitudes, incidents, situations, plot and character.’ He said that it was doubtful that Haley could have written Roots without relying on The African.”

Fortunately, some recognize Haley’s plagiarism. He is listed as one of several famous plagiarizers in a Swarthmore college website.  Others are Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Joseph Biden.

In another case, movie actor George Clooney’s production company is among those being sued for allegedly copying material for its film “Syriana” from the work of a French screenwriter.

The Clooney case hasn’t received as much attention as Ben Domenech, hired and then fired as a conservative blogger for the Washington Post after first denying then admitting multiple cases of plagiarism.

Politically, we’ll be looking to see if the liberal sites that exposed Domenech keep the focus on Biden’s plagiarism as he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination.

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