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Chris Hedges Defends Himself Against Accusations of Plagiarism—and Christopher Ketcham Responds

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Statement from Chris Hedges

Statements made in Christopher Ketcham’s article in The New Republic are false and attempt to damage me personally and professionally. The failure by The New Republic to verify the charges by assigning an editor or fact checker to vet the story and contact me or the publications involved, violates the most basic tenets of journalistic ethics. Ketcham has been attempting to publish these allegations for more than a year. His queries engendered lengthy investigations into his charges by The Nation Institute, Nation Books and Truthdig, all of which found no basis for his charges, as they state in the article. Given the gravity of the charges made against me by The New Republic, including an emphatic statement in the headline that I was a plagiarist, the organizations involved, as well as I, should have been allowed a fair hearing from the magazine before publication. An independent and disinterested fact checker or editor should have contacted us. I expect, at the very least, that this response will be run in full by the magazine.   

  1. The article submitted to Harper's was not “lifted directly from the work of a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter named Matt Katz.” All my reporting was done before the Katz series was published. The Camden story, published eventually in The Nation magazine and used in a longer version in my book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, cited some of the Inquirer’s work, especially statistics gathered by the newspaper, and was properly sourced. The charge—made without any evidence and without sources about an unpublished manuscript—that passages and quotes were taken from the Inquirer series is simply untrue. The charge that I copied quotes from another reporter is also untrue. These allegations, which are very serious, should not have been made unless accompanied by textual proof. There was none. Indeed, Ketcham admits that he never read the manuscript.  
  2. There are numerous footnotes to the Inquirer in the Camden chapter of Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. Katz is credited for the reporting he did in the footnotes and directly in the text. These two particular passages cited by Ketcham are footnoted to the wrong Katz article. This error was corrected. To cite an incorrect footnote as an example of plagiarism is inappropriate.
  3. I changed the Ernest Hemingway passage in my book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning after the first edition several months before Thomas Palaima’s complaint. The editors and I make changes if errors are found in all new editions. Indeed, I request them to be made.    
  4. I corrected the Neil Postman reference after my “2011: A Brave New Dystopia” column was put up on Truthdig when similarity in style came to my attention. The quote, used in my book Empire of Illusion, was always in quotes and footnoted.
  5. The Petra Bartosiewicz material in my column “The Terror-Industrial Complex” was sourced to Harpers and to Bartosiewicz three times. There were a few paragraphs following the sourcing that should have been set off in block quotes. Bartosiewicz’s editor at Harper’s, Luke Mitchell, called it to our attention. Mitchell asked us to fix what he described as a “formatting error” in the “much appreciated” Truthdig column that cited her work. The fix was made, in consultation with Mitchell, the next day and ran along with an editor’s note.
  6. Naomi Klein in an article in The Nation magazine referred to some statements of fact about climate change. I used these statements of fact, but I did not copy her words. In hindsight, I would have linked to and cited directly her article, especially given how much I admire her work. 

My work as a journalist and an author has been dedicated to telling the truth. I have made errors, and will no doubt make errors in the future. But I always seek when I discover these errors or when they are discovered by others to make corrections. I do not willfully hurt anyone or appropriate anyone else’s work. Writers, especially writers who have produced, as I have, hundreds of thousands of words of printed copy, are fallible. What matters are intent and a willingness to own up to inadvertent errors or mistakes. I have always worked, and will continue to work, to be as transparent and honest as possible.

Response from Christopher Ketcham  

Please allow me to respond to Hedges's six complaints: 

  1. Hedges says that he couldn't have plagiarized because he completed his reporting before Katz did. Katz’s series came out in November 2009. According to the editors at Harper’s, Hedges submitted his manuscript in February of 2010. I spoke to four people at the magazine, including its top brass, about the incident, and all these sources reiterated that the plagiarism did indeed occur and that it involved exact same sentences as found in Katz’s series. To accept Hedges’s version of events, one would have to assume that the staff at Harper’s decided to invent the tale of his plagiarism there.  
  2. The main issue of concern in the passages cited from Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is not the erroneous footnoting but the fact that his language almost exactly copies that of Matt Katz.  
  3. Hedges claims he corrected the Hemingway plagiarism on his own, prior to being alerted by University of Texas Prof. Thomas Palaima, but this runs counter both to Palaima’s account and to the statement of the spokesman at his former publishing house, PublicAffairs.  
  4. The Postman paragraph was corrected by Hedges—so he claims—but only after two years had passed since the article in question was published. Regardless of the correction, that he did it in the first place is an act of plagiarism.  
  5. Concerning the Bartosiewicz plagiarism, Hedges, as detailed in my piece, does not address—and continues here to fail to address—why he made so many small changes to the original text (this includes the tweaking of some sentences and lines but not others, the adding of a hyperlink not in the original, and the changing of certain phrases).
  6. Hedges claims he did not copy Naomi Klein's words, though if you look at the text, alas, he clearly did.   

Response from The New Republic 

As for Hedges's claim that the piece wasn't edited: that's absolutely incorrect. The New Republic also fact-checked it, thoroughly, over a long period of time. Hedges had been contacted by Ketcham and by another publication about these allegations before—he is quoted in response to them in the piece.