Monica Crowley’s book pulled by HarperCollins

UPDATE: Readers have noted in the comments that Crowley also stands accused of plagiarizing parts of her Ph.D. dissertation in international relations at Columbia University. Politico reports (and gives examples in their piece:

Crowley submitted her dissertation, titled “Clearer Than Truth: Determining and Preserving Grand Strategy: The Evolution of American Policy Toward the People’s Republic of China Under Truman and Nixon,” in 2000 in partial completion of her Ph.D. in international relations at New York’s Columbia University. Today, the thesis is kept on microfilm at the University of Michigan and accessible via ProQuest, an academic database.

By checking passages in the document against the sources Crowley cites, focusing on paragraphs that come before and after footnotes of key sources in her bibliography, we found numerous structural and syntactic similarities. She lifted passages from her footnoted texts, occasionally making slight wording changes but rarely using quotation marks. Sometimes she didn’t footnote at all.

Parts of Crowley’s dissertation appear to violate Columbia’s definition of “Unintentional Plagiarism” for “failure to ‘quote’ or block quote author’s exact words, even if documented” or “failure to paraphrase in your own words, even if documented.” In other cases, her writing appears to violate types I and II of Columbia’s definition of “Intentional Plagiarism,” which are, respectively, “direct copy and paste” and “small modification by word switch,” “without quotation or reference to the source.”

It’s not clear whether this could lead to the revocation of her Ph.D., but it seems more serious than plagiarizing in a trade book. Again, this may be small-time malfeasance to the Trumpites, but if her degree is revoked it could have serious impications for her appointment on the National Security Council.


Two days ago I reported accusations by CNN about Monica Crowley, former political columnist and Fox News commentator and now poised to become Donald Trump’s senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council. The accusations involved plagiarism in Crowley’s 2012 book What The (Bleep) Just Happened; the charges were Crowley had lifted without attribution at least 50 passages from sources as diverse as Wikipedia and the Wall Street Journal (see my earlier post for examples.)

Apparently the publisher, agrees that there was misconduct: as CNN just reported, HarperCollins is ditching the book:

“The book, which has reached the end of its natural sales cycle, will no longer be offered for purchase until such time as the author has the opportunity to source and revise the material,” HarperCollins said in a statement to CNN’s KFile.

That’s a polite way of saying that “we’re not publishing this until the plagiarism is gone.”  The “natural sales cycle” stuff is politely disingenuous, as if it’s reached the end of that cycle, why would they publish a revision? CNN goes on:

Publisher HarperCollins said Tuesday that it will stop selling a book by Monica Crowley that a CNN KFile investigation found to have more than 50 instances of plagiarism.

A request for comment from the Trump transition team was not immediately returned. A spokesperson for the Trump transition team told CNN’s KFile Saturday when the initial report was published that they were standing by Crowley.

“HarperCollins—one of the largest and most respected publishers in the world—published her book which has become a national best-seller. Any attempt to discredit Monica is nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country,” the spokesperson said.


The book at issue


  1. GBJames
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Why didn’t HarperCollins bother to check before publishing it?

    • Posted January 10, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      I asked that question earlier; publishers should have a way to check for plagiarism. I’ve since learned that it’s impossible for them to check a whole book that way, and it’s standard boilerplate, in a new author’s contract, that the author has to sign saying that he/she did not engage in plagiarism. That way the publishing house is not themselves responsible for plagiarism and, I guess, cannot be sued for it. It’s all on the author.

      • GBJames
        Posted January 10, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        Maybe we should get them a license to something like this.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 10, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          Amazing. I wonder if some teachers might use this as well on those term papers and all.

          • Filippo
            Posted January 11, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

            I wonder if the school systems employing those teachers will pay for such a service, and wonder how much time teachers are able to invest in “vetting” papers.

            • Posted January 11, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

              At some places it is a real problem. At CMU, I took a data structures and algorithms class and they had developed software to check for “code borrowing” …

        • DiscoveredJoys
          Posted January 10, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps we could crowdfund a small group to carry out plagiarism checks on many popular authors? The question is what to do when plagiarism is found? Or would the public denouncement be enough to persuade others to not go down that route?

    • Siggy in CR
      Posted January 10, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Seems that it should be a fairly simple thing to create a program that separates a document in to paragraph sized sections and runs them through a search engine and checks any matches for a reference to the author.

  2. Stephen Barnard
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    It’s being reported that she plagiarized her PhD dissertation (from Columbia, I think).

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Sure, and Meryl Streep is overrated. The Trump response to just about everything is becoming more pathetic by the hour.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 10, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      And Hamilton sucks. Good grief.

      The “King”: ‘when people say they hate you’ ‘do you know how hard it is to lead?’

      I will add to that narrative: ‘when you tell the people you hate them, do you know how hard it will be to lead?’

      • Kevin
        Posted January 10, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        Apologies, did not know NYT links do that.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 10, 2017 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      A year and a half ago, in an interview with the press, Trump was asked about his favorite actresses. The big orange idiot named Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep — and further vouchsafed that the latter was “a fine person,” to boot.

      Overrated? La Streep is flat-out the finest American actor of her generation, of either gender (or of however many genders we have nowadays 🙂 ). She has the universal respect of her peers, and there isn’t an American actress of any age who doesn’t revere her as a role model and inspiration.

      • Carl
        Posted January 10, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        I wouldn’t pretend to judge quality of actors. I can tell when one seems wooden, but mainly it’s whether I like watching them on the screen. Meryl Streep has never been one of my favorites, but I did like her when I saw River Wild again last week. I prefer Cate Blanchett, Hilary Swank, Jodi Foster, Frances McDormand, and several others.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted January 10, 2017 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

          I like all the actresses you’ve mentioned, Carl. And I bet if we polled them, the actress they would name as their favorite would be Meryl Streep. Such is the respect afforded her within her profession.

          I’ve liked her in everything she’s been in, from The Deer Hunter through Florence Foster Jenkins, and all the great roles in between. I don’t recall her ever giving a bad performance.

          But what I’d really like to see most of all is a dingo eat her Donald. 🙂

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted January 10, 2017 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

            I guess best actor, best music, it’s all a matter of individual choice. For my money, Streep is just about the best and apparently she has the awards to prove it. What kind of idiot is this Trump is the real question. He may get the award for worst president before he actually gets there.

          • Carl
            Posted January 10, 2017 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

            I bet if we polled them, the actress they would name as their favorite would be Meryl Streep.

            Oh, I know. I’ve heard Jodie Foster use your phrase “best actress of her generation” to describe Streep.

            But I would much rather watch Cate Blanchett in The Missing, Elizabeth, Veronica Guerin, or even Hannah, than any performance by Meryl Streep. I’m not saying any these movies are better than the The Deer Hunter, but what I liked there had little to do with Streep.

            • Posted January 11, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

              Sophie’s Choice
              Out of Africa
              The Devil Wears Prada

              • Carl
                Posted January 11, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

                I liked Sophie’s Choice and Doubt but they wouldn’t make my top 500. No need to point out many or most others would have a higher opinion. I watch movies almost entirely for entertainment, and not any kind of intellectual stimulation, for that I prefer the written word.

                Generally, but not exclusively, it’s the male actors that make a movie enjoyable to me, though in Game of Thrones the female characters are awesome – quite a number of them.

        • Posted January 11, 2017 at 4:24 am | Permalink

          I also don’t like her very much, but I don’t doubt that all people who do have a reason, so this is just my personal taste; and I further lowered my opinion of Trump. If he had some class, he’d say, “Ms. Streep is a great actress, she is making American cinema great with her roles, but as for her opinions in politics…”

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted January 11, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

            The only opinion MS expressed at the Golden Globes was that it was wrong to mock the handicapped.

          • Filippo
            Posted January 11, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

            If he had some class he’d apologize for making fun of another’s physical disability.

            • Kevin
              Posted January 11, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

              He has no class. He is a narcissist-sociopath, which by itself is not all bad, but he has an intrinsically pernicious attitude towards existence.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted January 11, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

              Never apologize, always counterattack, change the news cycle — that’s the strategy of Trump and his media minions.

            • Posted January 11, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

              I had missed this part of the story!

      • Posted January 11, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        I think so too.

        Her and Judi Dench are the stars.

        • Kevin
          Posted January 11, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          Judi is my favorite of the last twenty years, then Cate.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted January 11, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      I have naught to say about preferences among actresses, but I will venture that this latest Trump-tribe response to Streep is further evidence (any needed?) that we’re now living in a post-truth nation, one whose only currency is the ever-inflating tissue of lies. It strikes me as odd how similar this all is to the ‘sleep of reason’ that produced the monsters of postmodernism.

  4. Al
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Apparently she also plagiarized her PhD dissertation.

    It’s more serious and could lead Columbia to revoke her degree.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted January 10, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, I didn’t realize that you’d already posted this link.

  5. Posted January 10, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Wow and I too am surprised they didn’t fact check the book first –

  6. Posted January 10, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    What the (Bleep) Just Happened?

    You got caught, Lady.

    • Posted January 10, 2017 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      That’s you got bleepin caught, I think.

  7. eric
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    The “natural sales cycle” stuff is politely disingenuous, as if it’s reached the end of that cycle, why would they publish a revision? CNN goes on:

    Here’s my (charitable) interpretation: “we’ve just about sold out of the current hardcopy print run. We expect that another print run would sell and make us even more money, but we agree not to do another print run until she revises the book.”

  8. darrelle
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I’ve certainly got no hard data to back it up but I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of thing isn’t rare in certain academic and professional circles.

    • Carl
      Posted January 10, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Here is a bit of data:

      The great astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571– 1630) gently advised Galileo to acknowledge the true source of his inspiration: “Do not . . . begrudge our predecessors their proper credit . . . You refine a doctrine borrowed from [Giordano] Bruno.”

      To avoid plagiarism charges myself, I am citing Matthew Stewart citing Ingrid Rowland’s Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic.

      Of course, Bruno was borrowing from Lucretius, who was borrowing from Epicurus.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 10, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        How’d that work out for Bruno and the Church? I hear it got a bit hot.

        Too soon?

        • Carl
          Posted January 10, 2017 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

          The church has “pardoned” Galileo, but for Bruno, the best they can do is “regret” the manner of his death. But who cares? Bruno will be remembered and honored more than any pope there ever was or will be.

    • eric
      Posted January 10, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      On the one hand, I’m surprised her thesis advisor didn’t pick up on an uncited quote of other material in her field. Columbia is a good school, this wasn’t some chop-shop degree mill.

      On the other hand, from what I’ve read she seems to have lifted material from books moreso than refereed journal articles, so maybe its not too surprising. A professor should certainly be well-read in their field, but I doubt even the best political scientist professor can keep up with the volume of unrefereed books written on politics. Its a subject that produces probably thousands of trade non-fiction books a year.

      • darrelle
        Posted January 10, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        Yes. I don’t think the tools have existed prior to about now or the near future, with everything digitized and accessible on the internet and computing abilities, to thoroughly check for plagiarism on a regular basis with a reasonable expenditure of resources.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 10, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      For all dissertations beginning with “Clearer Than Truth…”, my guess all contain fabrications.

      Another nice survey would be for professors to estimate what percentage of their students, present and past, do they suspect have copied?

      I do not recall any of my fellow graduate students copying, but I do know that many of us could care less what some of the students wrote in their dissertations so long as they just disappeared. I can understand how professors may just want some of their students to become distant memories.

      • eric
        Posted January 10, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t see any evidence of it at grad school, but I did at the undergrad level, and I see minor amounts of it in industry. Mostly out of ignorance and laziness rather than malice. People get writing and they don’t want to bother to create a reference at that moment (and then they never do). Or some young person isn’t sure what counts as ‘general knowledge’ versus an attributable paraphrase. And craziest of all, some of them think they just don’t have to; like it’s some stylistic preference that us old fogies were taught to do, but which is no more relevant to modern electronic communications than a “Dear _______” salutation.

        In Crowley’s specific case, I have no trouble believing malice. But in general, when it comes to misattributions and poor citation in documents I review, I see a lot more incompetence than malice.

        • Diane G.
          Posted January 11, 2017 at 12:49 am | Permalink

          “And craziest of all, some of them think they just don’t have to…”

          Which, sadly, may eventually be the case. If the “all intellectual property should be free crowd” prevails, then what is the value of the original to its author, anyway?

          • Posted January 11, 2017 at 4:16 am | Permalink

            Free intellectual property should not free new authors from the need to attribute. E.g. Milton is all in the public domain, but you cannot publish him under your name, or at least – let’s be cautious, Trump hasn’t been even sworn in yet – I haven’t heard of anyone trying it.

            As for the opinion that all intellectual property should be free, its adherents, being authors themselves, usually think that government should pay them nicely for their work and then distribute it free to all interested readers, esp. to those likely to cite the work.

            Many of the same people are also for low taxes :-).

            • Posted January 11, 2017 at 8:25 am | Permalink

              I doubt you have to worry about Trump plagiarizing Milton. Even if he knows who Milton was, he hasn’t the attention span to have read any of his works.

            • Diane G.
              Posted January 12, 2017 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

              “– let’s be cautious, Trump hasn’t been even sworn in yet –”


              As for the free-intellectual-property movement, I had the feeling most of its proponents were its consumers (readers, music-listeners, etc.) rather than its producers.

              And I was being sarcastic–I agree that, paid or not, authors should be cited when quoted. But really, if the movement succeeds, how many authors are we going to have, anyway?

          • eric
            Posted January 11, 2017 at 6:30 am | Permalink

            I would think that when intellectual property is free, correct citation becomes even more important. After all, if that’s the case then the only recompense you’re getting for your work is reputation.

            • Posted January 11, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

              It also tells you which republished version was used, which is sometimes important.

              • Diane G.
                Posted January 13, 2017 at 12:00 am | Permalink

                Good points, both of you. And I was being sarcastic; I agree about the importance of citation.

  9. Posted January 10, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Not surprised.

  10. eric
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Today, the thesis is kept on microfilm at the University of Michigan and accessible via ProQuest, an academic database.

    By checking passages in the document…

    Did the find a $20 in it? That was always the joke around our department: put a $20 in your published thesis. Come back to the library 10 or 20 years later to see if anyone read it, and you’ll find the $20 still there.

    • eric
      Posted January 10, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Ah, microfilm. I missed that. I guess they could still find a $20 in the cassette box, but that doesn’t have the same snarky feel to it. 🙂

    • Kevin
      Posted January 10, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      I found a $10 bill in the engineering library at Stanford…I had to look through about fifty dissertations/master’s theses before I found it. I stopped after that feeling quite guilty that I had little concern for what I was rifling through.

      • eric
        Posted January 10, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, the rule should be that you can only take the money if you actually read the thesis. 🙂

        • Posted January 11, 2017 at 7:21 am | Permalink

          Good luck with that! 🙂

  11. Mark Cagnetta
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    As it turns out, she also plagiarized her dissertation at Columbia for that phony “Dr.” title they conspicuously display on Fox whenever she appears. Not only is their news fake, so are their on-air hosts.

    Harper is going to let her correct her work and resubmit. Students would receive an “F” and face expulsion in some colleges.

  12. DrBrydon
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    A typical Trump-branded product. I have a friend who is hoping he’s playing a deep game. He ain’t.

  13. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    This whole subject would help to add justification to Google’s attempt to copy all the world’s books. Checking all books would be a snap if left to Google.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    This seems so dumb. I mean, who plagiarizes Wikipedia? It’s not exactly a font of coruscating prose. Crowley probably didn’t want to cite it and let on how low her research had sunk.

    Sure, everyone who’s ever picked up a pen or stroked a keyboard has come across passages of prose so perfect, passages you so wish you’d written yourself, you’re tempted to boost them. Thing to do then is, you toss ’em in the cuisinart with all the other prose passages juste you feel like jacking, churn ’em together, and hope something palatable gets extruded out the other end. And if nothing comes, put quotation marks around them, cite the author, and pass it off as erudition.

    • eric
      Posted January 10, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Its weird but even with Wikipedia’s mediocre rep, I’ve never had anyone criticize me for citing them. I think the fear of being seen to cite Wikipedia is actually much greater than readers’ negative opinions of Wikipedia.

      Of course I haven’t tested my theory to destruction by citing them for highly technical information in a formal/important paper. I use it for more casual stuff. But in general, I’d bet that authors are far more worried about such cites than their readership is.

      • Posted January 11, 2017 at 4:08 am | Permalink

        The readership may be happy, but the reviewers?

        I often read Wikipedia articles related to my field, and my observation is that highly specialized topics, e.g. “spindle checkpoint”, are usually informative and reliable, while basic topics are often poorly written and full of errors (though tend to improve with time). It is logical, but has to be kept in mind.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 10, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      Hey, my research usually consist of a google and a Wikipedia look every day. I have sunk to the bottom.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 10, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

        Hey, Wikipedia works for me everyday, too. But it seems lacks cachet among those who write PhD theses or tomes of reactionary jeremiad. 🙂

      • Posted January 11, 2017 at 4:09 am | Permalink

        Google is a “must” for me also. Most of the articles I need are included in PubMed, but occasionally there are important ones that are not; Google finds them.

        • Posted January 11, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink


          Google is pretty amazing these days.

  15. saxonrooinek
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Please explain to me as to how I post information as in this email on Twitter ?  Thank you.  Diana 

    Sent by my 4G Ready Samsung Galaxy S III on Three

  16. tomh
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    The college where my wife teaches requires that all student papers to be submitted to Turnitin to be checked for plagiarism before being graded. I thought this was standard procedure these days. They claim to be used by 15,000 educational institutions.

    I don’t see why it would be impossible to check a whole book.

    • Posted January 10, 2017 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      I agree. Software doesn’t care if a book or dissertation is long.

  17. Gabrielle
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    When I was in grad school 30 years ago (chemistry), Dr. S., one of the professors on my committee, had just published a new textbook, which we used for a course we took from him. At one point I looked up a topic in his book, then decided to read up on the same topic in a text published by Dr. Paul Flory, a Nobel Laureate, about 15 years earlier.

    Dr. S. had lifted 3 paragraphs nearly word for word from Flory’s text, with no attribution. I was stunned. Naturally, I said nothing. I assume that Dr. S’s text likely had more instances of plagiarism.

    Perhaps nowadays this would be found out by the publisher, one hopes.

    • CJColucci
      Posted January 11, 2017 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      I sometimes wonder if there is such a thing as automatic “plagiarism”: different authors presenting very basic concepts or material in a very basic, straightforward way ending up with almost exactly duplicated language. That might happen in elementary textbooks.

  18. Posted January 11, 2017 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Most to the Trump team (in large) seem like frauds to me.

    He’s a fraud.

    I like how, when allegations come from the Russians against HRC, they are serious allegations; but when they come against Trump, they are “fake news”.

    How can not EVERYONE see through this self-aggrandizing fraud?

    NPR was interviewing Jeff Flake (Senator, R, AZ) this morning on the radio. He said all the “right” things (from the standpoint of covering ass for the GOP) but his tone was pretty telling. He was obviously very uncomfortable.

    I hope the discomfort in a few sane GOP senators will turn into serious investigations. If true, the new allegations amount to his team (and who would imagine Trump was not in full control of and in communication with his team) colluding with a foreign government to influence US elections. Not sure if that’s treason; but it’s damned close if it isn’t technically treason.

  19. SeniorSkeptik
    Posted January 11, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Why should Trump be concerned by an employee who steals words and thoughts by others. Shoddy reporting is rampant at Faux News which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News which also owns Harper Collins.

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