Well, my post yesterday about Rep. Matt Wingard and his plagarized speech seems to have generated quite a bit of protest from the good legislator and his supporters.
The Wilsonville Spokesman newspaper appears to be the only outlet that's received an explanation from Wingard:
Wingard contacted The Spokesman via e-mail Monday night saying that he read the editorial during the Remonstrance time Friday and was planning on sending out a press release citing where he got the information. The press release went out Monday with a link to the video and an explanation that it came from a Washington Times editorial.
"I guess, if you're afraid of the substance of the debate, you attempt to distract from it as much as possible," Wingard said. "I had a number of scientists review my speech before I read it. I stand by the substance of the statement. Everything else is just political games."
As of Monday afternoon, Wingard had posted a description of the speech on his legislative site:
Rep. Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville) rose on the House Floor to share a Washington Times editorial on “Climategate” where hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit revealed that global warming advocates had for years attempted to hide conflicting data and silence their professional critics. While world temperatures cool, “climate change fanatics seek to blame capitalism and productivity for global warming, global cooling, too much snow, not enough snow, hurricanes, tornadoes and even the Haiti earthquake.”
A few thoughts:
- Let's be absolutely clear. I don't care one whit about the substance of Wingard's comments. He could have been waxing eloquent on motherhood and apple pie. If he'd ripped off someone else's words without attribution, and I'd have noticed, I'd have written about it. The fact that it's a bunch of goofy comments about climate change is only relevant inasmuch as that's what originally brought it to Carla's attention in her post.
- This incident is especially damning for Wingard because he's a trained journalist. He's got a degree in broadcast journalism - and once worked as a journalist in Yakima, Washington. He touts both factoids on his campaign bio. He surely knows better. (A big hat tip to "Pedro" for bringing Wingard's resume to my attention.)
- Wingard's claim that he simply failed to mention the attribution in his speech and "planned" to send out a press release later is absurd.
If Wingard had read the entirety of the Washington Times editorial, word-for-word, we might assume (as he now claims) that he simply failed to mention the attribution - or, perhaps, that his staff was handing out printed materials with the requisite attribution to his colleagues.
But Wingard didn't actually read the entire Times editorial. He excluded several interesting sentences (including a fun one about a "sexually explicit novel" and another comparing President Obama to Osama bin Laden). He inserted a stolen paragraph from the Globe and Mail. And, most damning of all, he snowflaked in a bunch of minor changes.
That behavior clearly demonstrates that this was a) not a mere case of failing to attribute, and b) that he was deliberately trying to cover his tracks.
- Incidentally, even as he belatedly tries to evade responsibility by claiming that he "rose on the House floor to share a Washington Times editorial", he makes no mention of the paragraph stolen from Margaret Wente at the Globe and Mail.
- Wingard claims he "had a number of scientists review my speech before I read it." Note that even as he's now saying he was "sharing" a Washington Times editorial he still claims it was "his" speech. Furthermore, if he'd had scientists actually review his speech closely, they would have spotted this unintentionally hilarious gem:
Wingard changed this chunk of the Times editorial...
Water vapor appears to play as important a role in the climate as carbon emissions. Sunspot activity may be more important than both combined.
...to this, as delivered:
Water vapor plays a far greater role in our climate than does carbon dioxide. And solar activity is hugely important to our climate.
Gee, Matt, ya think? On that much, I think we can all agree. The sun is really, really important to our climate. Really important.
Matt, in my day job, I work for the other side. But here's a little free crisis-communications advice: When you're in a hole, stop digging. The Portland Mercury and the Wilsonville Spokesman are already poking around. It won't be long before much bigger newspaper staffs are pulling all of your old speeches and doin' the google.
Come clean, tell the truth, apologize, and move on. Otherwise, it's only going to get worse.