Rand Paul’s Office Accuses Reason of 'editorial malpractice’ and ‘plagiarism-lite’

On November 12, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave his first major
public address since being criticized for plagiarism in his
speeches and writings. With a wink to his critics, it was heavily
. On November 13, Reason’s Matthew Feeney wrote a

blog post
 titled “Rand Paul’s Latest Speech Did Contain
Footnotes, But That Doesn’t Mean it Was Accurate,” linking to and
excerpting from a
critical piece
by The Daily Beast‘s Josh Rogin. On
November 14, Paul staffer Doug Stafford sent the following reply,
which we now print in full. My response is below it:



NOVEMBER 14, 2013

I am disappointed in Reason.com for acting as a platform from an
unreasonable and unreliable source.  First, Sen. Rand Paul was
criticized for not using enough footnotes and attribution for
political speeches and Op-Eds.  Now, he is being criticized
for using too many footnotes and these footnotes are under
unprecedented scrutiny.[1]

I was disappointed that Reason jumped on the “haters and hacks”
bandwagon by arguing that the Citadel speech had a few errors in
the 33 footnotes.  I have always held Reason to a high
standard and I am disappointed that author Matthew Fenney
(sic) failed to properly research and support his
claims.  Instead, Reason effectively borrowed an argument
from The
Daily Beast
’s Josh Rogin arguing that Sen. Paul made “at least
four factual errors” in his references to Egypt.  Had he done
proper due diligence and ten minutes of research, Feeney, might not
have copied pasted the ideas of the Daily Beast into an inaccurate
blog post. 

Let’s examine each alleged “error” one by one.

1.   On November 12, 2013 in a foreign policy
speech delivered to The Citadel, Sen. Paul stated: “In Egypt
recently, we saw a military coup that this Administration tells us
is not a military coup.”  This was an accurate
statement.  The Washington
 reported on July 8 of this year that
“Carney was not ready to label Morsi’s Ouster a military
coup.”  Reasonable people can disagree on certain facts, but
it is clear to the unbiased reader that Sen. Paul’s assertion is
true.  Rogin argued that because the State Department refused
to by actually deem the coup in Egypt a “coup” pursuant to the law,
that somehow my footnote was incurred.  As opposed to
researching Rogin’s errors, Reason simply regurgitated Rogin’s
inaccurate report. This is editorial malpractice.

2.  Rogin makes a nuanced point that “following the
military takeover of the Egyptian government, the Administration
quietly halted all shipments of heavy weapons to Egypt, mostly
adhering to a law requiring a cutoff of military aid to any country
that has experienced a coup.”  So, the Administration acted
consistent with the spirit, not the letter, of the law with regard
to cutting off aid to countries that experienced a military
takeover of the government.  Reasonable people can disagree
with some arguments but this point is unreasonable and

3. Rogin quotes another sentence in the Citadel speech to
support his unreasonable attack.  “In a highly unstable
situation, our government continued to send F-16s, Abrams tanks and
American-made tear gas.”  Rogin argues that “following the
military takeover of the Egyptian government, the
Administration quietly
 all shipments of heavy weapons to Egypt, mostly
adhering to a law requiring a cutoff of military aid to any country
that has experienced a coup, while maintaining a
position of ambiguity
 over whether a coup had taken
place.”  Rogin might have taken a moment to look at his own
article from August 19, 2013 where he wrote, “The U.S. government
has decided privately to act as if the military takeover of Egypt
was a coup, temporarily suspending most forms of military aid,
despite deciding not
to announce publicly a coup determination
 one way or the
other, according to a leading U.S. Senator.”  That Senator,
Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was contradicted by Administration officials.
Later in the article, Rogin quoted State Department Spokeswoman,
Jen Psaki, as saying that no final policy decision had been made on
any of the Egypt aid.  Rogin also quoted Defense Secretary
Chuck Hagel as saying that no final decisions had been made. 
Furthermore, the coup happened on July 3, 2013 well before the
information was leaked to Rogin onAugust 19.  Were “F-16s,
Abrams tanks and American-made tear gas” delivered or obligated to
Egypt in that month time period between the actual coup and the
unconfirmed leak of the ceasing of this military aid?  Again,
reasonable people can disagree, but for Rogin to declare that the
statement by Senator Paul is “inaccurate” is again, a false, biased
assessment and its regurgitation is editorial malpractice on the
part of Reason.

4. Finally, Rogin contests the argument that American-made
tear gas was used against the Egyptian people during the
coup. He states, “In addition, the ABC News report Paul
cites in his footnotes for this information is from 2011 and only
mentions that U.S. made tear gas was used in the Egyptian
revolution that occurred two years ago, well before Morsi’s
election or his overthrow.”  So, there is a footnote
documenting that American-made tear gas was used against the
Egyptian people in 2011, yet it is not reasonable to deduce that it
was also used in 2013.  Until Rogin can prove that it was not
used, I think Sen. Paul’s interpretation is reasonable.

Rogin titled his piece “For Rand Paul, Footnotes Do Not Equal
Accuracy.”  This headline is false and a poorly substantiated
assertion by The Daily Beast.  For Reason to cut and paste
those same arguments, with little—if any—independent verification
of the assertions is plagiarism-lite. 

The Rogin piece was re-published in many publications, yet I
have always held Reason to a higher standard. I am
disappointed in this piece and hope that this esteemed publication
will do better diligence when using other unreliable sources to
attack a heavily footnoted and well-researched speech.

 Me, November 14, 2013, at my desk.

My response:

Most of Doug Stafford’s beef is with The Daily Beast’s
Josh Rogin, who can answer for himself. For Reason, there
are four basic charges here, two of which are not particularly
serious: No, we have not “jumped on the ‘haters and hacks’
bandwagon,” as any visit
to our archives
 will attest (side note: to conflate
thoughtful engagement and criticism of a politician with
reactionary dismissal is not becoming). And no, using the
blockquote indentation function to quote from linked, attributed
texts does not amount to even the “litest” of plagiarisms.

But was Feeney’s blog post “inaccurate”? There aren’t many
outright claims in the thing; here is the basic contestable

Josh Rogin points out that…the speech included factual errors
relating to claims about the situations in Egypt and Syria as well
the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi

On Egypt (see Stafford’s #1), the main issue is the width of the
gap between “this Administration tells us [it] is not a military
coup,” and “The law does not require us to make a formal
determination as to whether a coup took place, and it is not in our
national interest to make such a determination.” (The latter is an
anonymous Obama administration official in a
July 25 Reuters report
that was widely duplicated

Stafford effectively says that there’s no daylight between the
two comments; that Rand Paul’s “was an accurate statement,” as is
“clear to the unbiased reader.” But there’s a difference between
saying “You’re not ugly,” and “I’d rather not say whether you’re
ugly or not” (for one thing, if the subject wasn’t ugly,
the speaker would probably want to scream it from the
mountaintops). It’s pretty clear that the administration thinks
what happened in Egypt was a coup, but just doesn’t want
to deal with the
legal ramifications of that official determination
(since it
would require blocking aid), and so instead is torturing the
language. It’s a minor rhetorical point in the scheme of things,
but I’d say Paul got it wrong.

What about Syria? Feeney quotes Rogin quoting Paul:

“As we continue to aid and arm despotic regimes in Egypt, we are
also now sending weapons to the rebels in Syria,” Paul

Are we sending weapons to Syrian rebels? Here’s a Wall
Street Journal
headline from Sept. 2: “U.S.
Still Hasn’t Armed Syrian Rebels
.” Story begins like this:

In June, the White House authorized the Central Intelligence
Agency to help arm moderate fighters battling the Assad regime, a
signal to Syrian rebels that the cavalry was coming. Three months
later, they are still waiting.

The history of not-quite-arming the Syrian rebels is laid out in
Oct. 22 New York Times piece
, which reported that
President Obama told senators in September that (in the paper’s
paraphrase), “the first group of 50 Syrian rebels — trained by the
C.I.A. in Jordan — would soon cross into Syria.” So, as far as we
know, the U.S. has sent weapons to Jordan to train a very
small number of rebels who are now indeed in
Syria. Paul’s statement may have given off the wrong
impression, but the claims were technically accurate.

The opposite is true of another Syria-related Paul sentence
Rogin critiques and Feeney quotes. Paul said, “According to a
recent poll from Pew Research, over 70 percent of Americans are
against arming the Islamic rebels in Syria,” which is broadly right
but specifically wrong, since the
mentioned not “Islamic rebels” but “anti-government
groups,” whose ranks include non-Islamics.
I have no doubt that if Pew had the Paulite wording, that the
results would be higher than 70 percent, but Pew

Finally, there is Benghazi, about which Paul said “When Hillary
Clinton was asked for more security, she turned the Ambassador
down,” footnoting the claim with a
May 8 article from The Hill
, whose most direct
treatment of the turning-the-ambassador-down charge is this

the [House Oversight committee] report may have overreached when
it said it had evidence that Clinton had personally signed an April
2012 cable turning down then-Ambassador Gene Cretz’s request for
more security. All State Department cables from Washington bear the
secretary’s automatic signature, the State Department said.

I don’t know enough about what Hillary Clinton did or did not
personally do with respect to security in Benghazi to make anything
like a definitive claim. But it seems clear The Hill
footnote does not support Paul’s characterization.

Stafford’s final charge is of “editorial malpractice,” which,
like ophthalmological bias, is in ultimately in the eye of the
beholder, and up to readers to determine. Reason publishes
a wide range of opinions within a broad libertarian framework,
which means various writers will be on various sides of various
issues and politicians. For what it’s worth, I hold the opinion
both that Rand Paul—whom I profiled for a recent
Newsmax cover story
—is being unfairly nitpicked for
rhetorical sloppiness that pales in comparison to the practical
mendacity of those wielding power (including in regards to every
issue mentioned above), and that the best response for a
truly presidential aspirant is to run a tighter ship, instead of
retreating into defensiveness. Informed criticism makes public
actors better, whether in politics or journalism.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/19/rand-pauls-office-accuses-reason-of-edit

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