Chicago Sun-Times
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Washington Times: Lifts my Obama story quotes


Call the journalism police. It’s a quote heist.
Familiar with the phrase, ``imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?’’
A story in Friday’s Washington Times about Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)—written in the wake of his flap this week with Sen. John McCain (R-Az.)--lifts quotes I dug up in my own interviews for my story on the freshman senator. (Note Saturday entry update)

I wrote a long piece on Obama that ran in the Chicago Sun-Times on Jan. 22.
Let's compare the quotes in my story to what ran today in the Washington Times, without attribution to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Chicago Sun-Times LYNN SWEET
``Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, a Chicago native, says Obama "has not been the kind of strong leader people expected," with the caveat that he is a freshman. "To me, the jury is still out." (Jan. 22, 2006)

Washington Times ERIC PFEIFFER
Online activist Markos Moulitsas said Mr. Obama "has not been the kind of strong leader people expected. To me, the jury is still out." (Feb. 10, 2006)

"He needs to be a little more of a leader in the center if he really wants to have an impact beyond being an Illinois senator," says Sen. Trent Lott (R-La.), asked last month about Obama. (Jan. 22, 2006)

``He needs to be a little more of a leader in the center if he really wants to have an impact beyond being an Illinois senator," said Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican. (Feb. 10, 2006)

I e-mailed Markos today to ask if he was interviewed by Pfeiffer.
``I refused to talk to Eric Pfeiffer, so he stole your quote with no attribution,’’ replied Markos, who runs the popular progressive website. Markos’ take on this quote filching can be found at
(By the way, Markos is a native of Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood on the North Side and was raised in Schaumburg.)

Pfeiffer also includes descriptions of wall hangings in Obama’s office. That section appears to combine information in my story and in a piece by Jodi Enda in the February edition of The American Prospect.

``He never called our office or spoke with the Senator,’’ e-mailed Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs.


The Washington Times ran this gracious correction in Saturday's edition:
February 11, 2006
An article in yesterday's editions about Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, failed to identify the source of quotations from Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, and Internet blogger Markos Moulitsas. The quotations originally appeared Jan. 22 in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Thanks, Washington Times
Lynn Sweet


You write great stuff that breaks news, so of course you must expect them to steal from you. Miss you lots, Doug

Hold on now. I was arguing over there with Markos about this. While I was educated about how one should attribute quotes, I personally don't agree that one little quote, which is how Markos startd the diary, needs atribution. And the

That aside—didn't you do the same damn thing? You wrote:

"If you were a political investment banker, you would want to buy into this Barack Obama IPO," says Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)"

A week earlier this appeared in the American Prospect:

"He's an odds-on favorite to run for higher office," Durbin predicts. "If you are a personal investment banker, you certainly want to invest in the Barack Obama IPO ... "

Kos's reply, along with commenter leftilicious, is that it's probably a catchphrase of Durbin's. If it is it's not one that gets written about a lot; LexisNexis has two accounts of it: the Prospects on Jan. 17 and yours on Jan. 22. Google also only shows two.

That deserves an explanation. Did you read it in Jodi's story?

I interviewed Sen. Durbin by telephone on New Year's Day. You can find my story on
Jodi Enda

From Lynn Sweet.....
Here's some background about the quotes...
For my Jan. 22 story on Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) I interviewed Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in his Capitol office in December.
Obama, as the story says, was interviewed in his office in the Hart Senate Office Building.
I talked to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Ms.) outside the Senate chamber in December.
I caught up with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as she was leaving the chamber that same day, rode down the elevator with her and her aides and did the interview as we walked in the underground tunnel connecting the Capitol to the Senate office buildings.
All the other interviews were on the telephone.
Durbin came up with a good line and he used it more than once, but in slightly different versions.

Durbin told Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times:
``If you were a political investment banker, you would want to buy into this Barack Obama IPO.''

Durbin told Enda, American Prospect:
``If you are a personal investment banker, you certainly want to invest in the Barack Obama is a solid investment in the American political scene.''

I think what you're seeing here (with the Washington Times lifting your quotes) is the "traditional media" starting to emulate "the blogosphere"!

My motto, "Plagiarism Saves Time!" Besides, it's easier than work.

Nice to see that lynn has responded so quickly to dispel those charges.
I wonder when (if) Mr.Pfeiffer will do the same.

I am Durbin's communications director. I set up both interviews -- Jodi's via phone and Lynn's in person.

While I wasn't on the phone, Jodi Enda is a good reporter and I trust her work completely. In the case of Lynn Sweet's interview, I was sitting four feet away from Sen. Durbin when he made the IPO comment. It is in my notes too.

It's not unheard of for Sen. Durbin or any public figure at his level to come up with a catchy phrase that encapsulates his thoughts and repeat it a couple times. To accuse Lynn Sweet of lifting material from someone else's work is ridiculous.

Earl said at DKos:

===And I am a professional writer--though not a journalist--who works with the quotes of others every day. I have not been to college--I learned from my bosses and they may very well have taught me wrong. But I don't think so. If I'm doing something with a handful of quotes in it that were not spoken to me, if they're from an AP piece that played in 300 papers--am I really expected to attribute it to a paper or a writer?===

Yes, moron. You are. If you're lifting quotes, you should be fired, too.

And for you to suggest that Lynn (a woman, by the way, not a man) lifted a quote from the Prospect without checking whatsoever to see if your allegation was true is beyond irresponsible. You, my friend, are a nasty little partisan troll who knows nothing of what he speaks. Disgusting.

Yeah, it's definitely important to know if Pfeiffer lifted the quotes from Sweet. But an even more interesting question- Is Lynn ,like, the president of the Barack Obama Fan Club?

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 10, 2006 2:57 PM.

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