CNN Host Fareed Zakaria Again Slammed With Examples of Plagiarism

In August of 2012, my friend Cam Edwards at NRANews.com handed me surprising evidence that CNN host (and then-Time and Washington Post columnist) Fareed Zakaria had committed plagiarism of a New Yorker article on gun control. This NewsBusters article led to suspensions, and an apology by Zakaria. Further reviews of his work led to self-defensive conclusions that this was an isolated mistake.

Now bloggers at Our Bad Media, who exposed plagiarism by Benny Johnson at BuzzFeed, have absolutely dismantled the idea that Zakaria doesn’t lazily cheat and cut corners. They said “we have to call [BS]”:

These examples raise far more serious questions about the integrity of Zakaria’s editors at CNN, TIME, and the Washington Post, all of whom claimed to have conducted similar reviews and found nothing. In the light of our findings, we have to call bullshit. It took less than an hour and a few Google searches for us at Our Bad Media to find an example of lifting in Zakaria’s columns written before the 2012 plagiarism scandal. So we’re left to wonder: did TIME, CNN, or the Washington Post actually conduct good faith reviews of Zakaria’s work? Have they since?


Politico reported Time magazine announced they would review Zakaria’s work again, even though he longer writes for them. CNN and The Washington Post circled the wagons, with editorial page editor Fred Hiatt suggesting the Our Bad Media example including his newspaper “was so far from a case of plagiarism that it made me question the entire enterprise.”

That example (#8) does not include noticeable lifting of prose, just Zakaria regurgitating arguments for defense cuts from the liberal Democrats at the Center for American Progress. But Hiatt's huffing dismissal sounds like an invitation for bloggers to find more WashPost examples.

"These are all facts, not someone else's writing or opinions or expressions," Zakaria wrote in self-defense. But some of the new examples do show lifting of entire sentences, including the same punctuation breaks. The Washington Free Beacon liked this one (#1):

Of the 500 big companies in the well-known Standard & Poor’s stock index, 115 paid a total corporate tax rate — both federal and otherwise — of less than 20 percent over the last five years, according to an analysis of company reports done for The New York Times by Capital IQ, a research firm. Thirty-nine of those companies paid a rate less than 10 percent. David Leonhardt, New York Times, February 1, 2011.

Cain's second 9 is a 9% rate for corporate taxes, except that it's not really a corporate tax but a business-transaction tax. Still, the basic idea has value. The U.S. today has the second highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. And yet, of the 500 big companies in the Standard & Poor's stock index, 115 paid a total corporate tax rate--both federal and otherwise--of less than 20% over the past five years. Thirty-nine of those companies paid a rate of less than 10%.Fareed Zakaria, “Complexity Equals Corruption," October 31, 2011 Time.

Example #2 from 2011 is also a shameless doozy, as OBM explained:

In a July 11th, 2011 article for the Telegraph, Shanghai correspondent Malcolm Moore penned an article on the Chinese government’s manipulation of the box office, using some very specific examples. Only several days later, Zakaria posted a TIME column on “China’s New Parochialism,” a piece highlighting the very same examples as Moore’s article in the very same sequence, including the delay of Transformers and Harry Potter, reports of empty cinema houses, and, without any apparent sense of irony, the comments section of the Chinese piracy website “VeryCD.”

The bloggers lectured: "Fareed Zakaria is not a twenty-something digital media blogger charged with putting together Jurassic Park listicles. Fareed Zakaria is a news editor and a New York Times bestselling author who holds a B.A. from Yale and a Ph.D. from Harvard. In other words, someone who should be more than familiar with proper citation by now."

What this proves is that Zakaria is a sloppy recycler who thinks that the obvious power of his own blinding intellect and colleague-schmoozing charm -- and dare we say it, a desire for ethnic diversity in media -- should dismiss any ideas that he's lazily copying from others.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis