Former NYT Reporter Chris Hedges Exposed as Serial Plagiarist

Far left writer and former reporter for the New York Times, Chris Hedges, has been exposed as a serial plagiarist. So what scurrilous "rightwing" source made these charges? None. The exposure of the socialist Chris Hedges appeared in the liberal New Republic. And it was not just a minor slip on the part of Hedges. According to the article Hedges blatantly plagiarized over and over again in great quantity over a number of years. In fact the depth of his plagiarism would make even Joe Biden blush.

So was Hedges apologetic when confronted with his many examples of plagiarism? Not a bit. In fact his reaction as we shall see would earn him a place of honor at the Dinner for Schmucks table. First Christopher Ketcham of the New Republic explains how the serial plagiarist got caught in 2010:

In early 2010, the editors at Harper’s Magazine began reviewing a lengthy manuscript submitted by Chris Hedges, a former New York Times reporter. In the piece, Hedges had turned his eye to Camden, New Jersey, one of the most downtrodden cities in the nation. Hedges’s editor at Harper’s, Theodore Ross, who left the magazine in 2011 and is now a freelance writer, was excited when he saw the draft. “I thought it was a great story about a topic—poverty—that nobody covers enough,” Ross said.

The trouble began when Ross passed the piece along to the fact-checker assigned to the story. As Ross and the fact-checker began working through the material, they discovered that sections of Hedges’s draft appeared to have been lifted directly from the work of a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter named Matt Katz, who in 2009 had published a four-part series on social and political dysfunction in Camden.

Uh-oh. And after reminding us of Hedges winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for his coverage of global terrorism for the New York Times as well as winning Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism that same year, Ketcham reveals his hypocrisy:

...Since leaving the Times in 2005, he has evolved into a polemicist of the American left. For his fierce denunciations of the corporate state, his attacks on the political elite, and his enthusiasm for grassroots revolt, he has secured a place as a firebrand revered among progressive readers.

A leading moralist of the left, however, had now been caught plagiarizing at one of the oldest magazines of the left.

And now we see "a leading moralist of the left" attempting to dodge responsibility via that old standby...flat out lying:

Ross and the fact-checker, who remains an editor at the magazine and asked that his name not be used in this story, sat down to discuss the matter before approaching Ellen Rosenbush, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, and Rick MacArthur, the publisher, who knew Hedges personally. The fact-checker was assigned to speak to Hedges about the material lifted from Matt Katz. According to Ross and the fact-checker, Hedges told them that he had shared the draft with Katz, who, Hedges claimed, had approved his use of Katz’s language and reporting. (Rosenbush and MacArthur declined to comment on the record for this article.)

But when the editors at Harper’s asked Katz about Hedges’s account, Katz told them he had not in fact seen the manuscript. “When I went back to Hedges, he tried to clarify by saying he didn’t mean that he had actually showed Katz the draft,” the fact-checker said. “He lied to me—lied to his fact-checker.”

Apparently this incident of plagiarism on the part of Hedges was far from isolated:

The plagiarism at Harper’s was not an isolated incident. Hedges has a history of lifting material from other writers that goes back at least to his first book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, published in 2002. He has echoed language from Nation author Naomi Klein. He has lifted lines from radical social critic Neil Postman. He has even purloined lines from Ernest Hemingway.

Okay but please don't tell me that he also plagiarized Mr. Rogers. His reaction to the accusations of plagiarism demonstrate why he should have a permanent "Dinner for Schmucks" reservation:

“The Katz stuff was flat out plagiarism,” says the Harper’s fact-checker. “At least twenty instances of sentences that were exactly the same. Three grafs where a ‘that’ was changed to a ‘which.’” The fact-checker reiterated to me that first-person accounts in Hedges’s draft had him quoting the same sources as in Katz’s pieces, with the sources using exactly the same wording as in Katz’s pieces. “Hedges not only used another journalist’s quotes,” says the fact-checker, “but he used them in first-person scenes, claiming he himself gathered the quotes. It was one of the worst things I’d ever seen as a fact-checker at the magazine. And it was endemic throughout the piece.”

The fact-checker spoke on the phone with Hedges at least three times and exchanged about a dozen e-mails with him. “He was very unhelpful from the beginning, and very aggressive,” said the fact-checker. Hedges repeatedly claimed he had done original reporting. “Hedges reassured me there were no problems,” said Ross. “He then went to the fact-checker and tried to intimidate him and give him a hard time. Hedges told him, ‘Why are you going to the editor?’”

The fact-checker told me, “Not only was the plagiarism more egregious than I had seen before, but it was shocking how unapologetic Hedges was when it was put in his face. He got very heavy-handed about it. He kept claiming that the people quoted in the Katz piece gave him the exact same quotes.”

Ketcham provides many, many other examples of plagiarism by Hedges. For me to list them all would sort of put me into the plagiarism territory myself but let me provide this one example. Here is an excerpt from Naomi Klein in The Nation on October 14, 2009 followed by a Hedges paragraph in Truthdig just four days later:

So while the United States increased its carbon emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels, the European Union countries reduced theirs by 2 percent. … Flash forward to the high-stakes climate negotiations that just wrapped up in Bangkok. The talks were supposed to lead to a deal in Copenhagen this December that significantly strengthens the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, the United States, the EU and the rest of the developed countries formed a unified bloc calling for Kyoto to be scrapped and replaced. Where Kyoto set clear and binding targets for emission reductions, the US plan would have each country decide how much to cut, then submit its plans to international monitoring (with nothing but wishful thinking to ensure that this all keeps the planet’s temperature below catastrophic levels). And where Kyoto put the burden of responsibility squarely on the rich countries that created the climate crisis, the new plan treats all countries the same.

And here is Hedges apparently too lazy to make much effort to conceal his copycatting:

The United States, after rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, went on to increase its carbon emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels. The European Union countries during the same period reduced their emissions by 2 percent. But the recent climate negotiations in Bangkok, designed to lead to a deal in Copenhagen in December, have scuttled even the tepid response of Kyoto. Kyoto is dead. The EU, like the United States, will no longer abide by binding targets for emission reductions. Countries will unilaterally decide how much to cut. They will submit their plans to international monitoring. And while Kyoto put the burden of responsibility on the industrialized nations that created the climate crisis, the new plan treats all countries the same.

Why am I the first Hedges in a thousand generations to get caught plagiarizing?

Keep in mind that this is only the plagiarism that has been discovered so far. Are we to believe that the work of serial plagiarist Chris Hedges was completely original when he worked at the New York Times? Perhaps Times publisher Pinch Sulzberger should launch an investigation to see if Hedges pinched any material during his years at the Gray Lady. A belly laugh if it is discovered that he lifted stories from Jayson Blair.

P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick is a freelance writer and creator of the DUmmie FUnnies blog.