Can Maureen Dowd produce her friend's email?

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Y'know, the one she sorta claims she received from a friend that included a passage that she used in her column, but turned out to be lifted from Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo. I say 'sorta' because so far Dowd has been incredibly unclear about the specifics that led to the obvious plagiarism. And (surprise!) her Times editors don't seem to be all interested in uncovering the facts.

To recap, after it became clear Dowd used the TPM material without attribution she emailed the Huffington Post and explained [emphasis added]

josh is right. I didn't read his blog last week, and didn't have any idea he had made that point until you informed me just now. i was talking to a friend of mine Friday about what I was writing who suggested I make this point, expressing it in a cogent -- and I assumed spontaneous -- way and I wanted to weave the idea into my column.

but, clearly, my friend must have read josh marshall without mentioning that to me.
we're fixing it on the web, to give josh credit, and will include a note, as well as a formal correction tomorrow.

As Jamison noted at CF yesterday, the idea that Dowd spoke to her friend and via that conversation Dowd came up with the exact same wording that TPM had used simply is not believable. What does make some sense is the idea that a friend emailed the passage to Dowd, but in the email the friend failed to explain that the passage came from TPM and Dowd simply cut and pasted it into her column thinking she was simply cribbing from her friend.

In fact, that's what Dowd seemed to suggest in an email to Michael Calderone at Politico:

Its a friend I talk to by phone and email; I just had no idea that point was josh's; josh is now credited on the web in my column and I asked [editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal] to do another formal correction. And I owe him lunch.

But, Calderone asked, does that mean it's common practice for Times columnists to simply cut and paste sections of emails into their column. Calderone asked Dowd if that's what happened; if a friend had emailed her the passage. But Dowd never responded and has not answered that simple question publicly.

Of course, if it was a friend's email that caused the turmoil, than Dowd could easily produce the electronic correspondence today and confirm her story, right? So why doesn't she do that, and why don't Times editors demand that she produce it?

On the other hand, If there was no email and if Dowd lifted that passage via a conversation, well again, that simply is not a believable explanation.

UPDATE: Despite Dowd's obvious dodge, Slate thinks she's done a swell job explaining the circumstances of her mishap. Ah, life inside The Village.

UPDATE: What do y'know, the WashPost's Howard Kurtz (a media critic) also thinks what Dowd did is no big deal.

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