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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Update: Rick Rolled?

NYT piece just out on "controversy" around Rick Perlstein's new book on the '70s and claims of plagiarism.  "Mr. Perlstein, 44, suggested that the attack on his book is partly motivated by conservatives’ discomfort with his portrayal of Reagan. Mr. Shirley is president and chief executive of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, which represents conservative clients like Citizens United and Ann Coulter.

"But Mr. Shirley and his lawyer contend that Mr. Perlstein paraphrased original research without properly giving credit. 'The rephrasing of words without proper attribution is still plagiarism,' Mr. Shirley said in an interview."

Sam Tanenhaus about to slam in an Atlantic review (update, they just posted), but he 's a conservative who also hit, in the NYT Book Review, my otherwise very well-received book on the Nixon-Douglas Senate race. 

Most of the claims of plagiarism actually relate to re-used "facts," which as Perlstein's lawyers point out are far from "copyrightable." But I have to say, Perlstein asked for trouble by putting all of his footnotes/endnotes online.  When he asked his Facebook friends what we thought of it, I replied that it was foolish--selling hardbacks but expecting people to pop out their iPads or phones to find a citation.  He later admitted that vast majority agreed with me, at least in that posting.

UPDATE   An email to me from Perlstein this morning, includes letters back and forth from lawyers and this:
Meanwhile I want to call to your attention the true evil absurdity of the charge, which its authors admit to be ideologically motivated. Review the attached letters. It's scandalous that the New York Times decided to elevate this to the level of he said/she said "controversy." Craig Shirley, by the way, is also Ann Coulter's and Dinesh D'Souza's publicist.

One of his examples includes a quote from NBC's reporter Frank Reynolds. I checked Shirley's source for the Reynolds quote, Martin Anderson's "Revolution." He misquotes his source egregiously. My mistake was trusting Shirley. Who made up a quote.

Another example, as footnote 2 in my lawyers' letter explains, says I steal a quote from Nancy Reagan from him (he doesn't understand that once a fact is published, you can't steal it, but that's another issue). Well, I got that quote from a book published in 1977. I told the Times that, but this one one of the many dispositive details left on the cutting room floor.

That 1977 book, "PR As in President," by the still-active Republican publicist and writer Victor Gold. In my phone conversations with Shirley, making small talk, I asked him if he read this excellent book, full of behind-the-scenes nuggets. One of those nuggets is that Reagan's famously "spontaneous" speech at the 1976 convention, which concludes my book, was not spontaneous at all but carefully negotiated with the Ford forces. He claimed to have read and liked this book--but the heroic final chapter of his book depicts Reagan making the speech spontaneously.

This is Benghazi-level stuff. Or worse. And the Times fell for it, "opinions differ on the shape of the earth"-style.

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