Read the Letter at the Center of the New Reagan Book “Plagiarism” Controversy

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David Weigel in Slate:

If you click around Slate, you will find a review of Rick Perlstein's long-awaited 1970s history, The Invisible Bridge, and you'll find a podcast interview with the author. Both of these items were finished before the New York Times published a storyabout author/political strategist Craig Shirley, who has insisted that Perlstein plagiarized his 2005 book about Ronald Reagan's near-miss presidential primary run against Gerald Ford.

The Times' story is not quite definitive; it takes a teach-the-controversy, he said/she said approach to the story. “Mr. Shirley said he has since tallied close to 50 instances where his work was used without credit,” reports Alexandra Alter, who quotes Perlstein describing the instances as paraphrases.

But how did it start? Shirley told me yesterday that Perlstein contacted him when he (Shirley) was at a meeting of Reagan scholars, and wanted to run 10 citations by him, stories that had appeared in Shirley's book that he was trying to confirm independently. By the time Shirley got back to him, Perlstein had found the sources.

“He apologized and asked me if I would review his book,” said Shirley. “I asked my research assistant to get a review copy. I get it, I sit down, I start looking, I see my own writing in his book, not cited or credited to me.”

It did not matter to Shirley that Perlstein had put citations online, or that at the end of the book Perlstein thanked the conservative for saving him “3.76 months” of research.

“My name is only mentioned in passing, and then almost dismissively,” said Shirley. “What does he mean by 3.76 months? I don’t even know what the fuck that means. He didn’t interview Dick Cheney. I did. He didn’t interview Jim Baker. I did.”

More here.