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UPDATED: Could Ben Carson’s Plagiarism Kill his Presidential Ambitions?


BuzzFeed announced today that prospective Republican presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson plagiarized portions of his 2012 book “America the Beautiful.” Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon and Seventh-day Adventist Christian ironically wrote in the book that he got caught plagiarizing a college paper, an incident he called a “moral dilemma”:

Not long after that, when I was a psychology major delving into the mysteries of the human mind, I stepped unknowingly into yet another moral dilemma. During my research for one of the papers in an advanced psychology course, I found some passages that seemed particularly appropriate, and I included them in my writing. I did not, however, indicate that this was the work of someone else; frankly, I had never even heard of the term plagiarism. When the professor asked me to make an appointment to discuss my paper, I was befuddled. When I stepped into his office, however, I could immediately sense the weight of the moment. He pointed out that I had plagiarized and told me that the consequences for doing so normally included expulsion. I could see all of my dreams of becoming a doctor dashed by my stupidity. Even though I did not know the implications of plagiarism, I certainly should have known inherently that what I was doing was wrong. I had done it before without consequences and probably would have continued doing it if I had not been caught. Fortunately for me, the professor was very compassionate, realized that I was naïve, and gave me a chance to rewrite the paper. This raises another question: Is ignorance an acceptable excuse for unethical behavior?

According to BuzzFeed’s report, Carson plagiarized from a website that has been online since at least 2002 called  “America the Beautiful” exploded in popularity following Carson’s strong remarks at the 2013 Prayer Breakfast in which he decried “Political Correctness” and the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.

Carson has not yet announced his intention to make a bid for the White House in 2016, though he aired a televised documentary called “A Breath of Fresh Air” in November, which most pundits viewed as a move to gain credibility and name recognition with the American public. Carson has done well in some early straw polls of likely Republican voters, and has become a favorite of many Tea Party activists. He placed third out of 26 candidates in the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, but his very conservative views on a range of issues may hamper his viability as a candidate. BuzzFeed’s revelations certainly will not help.

Still, while presidential ambitions have been derailed by far less significant offences than plagiarism (think Howard Dean’s notorious 2004 “yee-haw” moment, for instance), popular candidates have been elected or re-elected after doing far worse (though rarely have they been presidential candidates).

If Carson does run for President of the United States, it will be the first time a Seventh-day Adventist will have sought the highest office in the land–arguably the most powerful office in the world. In the near term, it remains to be seen how the revelation of plagiarism will impact his ambitions.

Read the full article on BuzzFeed here.


UPDATE ONE: Ben Carson’s agent Sealey Yates told The Daily Caller that Carson had no intention of plagiarizing.

UPDATE TWO: A spokesperson for Zondervan, the Christian publishing house owned by HarperCollins that published “America the Beautiful” said the publisher will review charges that the book was plagiarized.

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