Doris Kearns Goodwin Accused of Plagiarism

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NBC Today Show
Katie Couric
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NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, found to have directly copied another author's words in one of her books, blames her errors in taking notes from source material, and apologizes for failing to paraphrase the other author's work.



"Doris Kearns Goodwin Accused of Plagiarism." Katie Couric, correspondent. NBC Today Show. NBCUniversal Media. 2 May 2002. NBC Learn. Web. 16 January 2015.


Couric, K. (Reporter). (2002, May 2). Doris Kearns Goodwin Accused of Plagiarism. [Television series episode]. NBC Today Show. Retrieved from


"Doris Kearns Goodwin Accused of Plagiarism" NBC Today Show, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 05/02/2002. Accessed Fri Jan 16 2015 from NBC Learn:


Doris Kearns Goodwin Accused of Plagiarism

KATIE COURIC, co-host:

Ever since January, historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin has been dealing with a very painful issue on a very public stage.  It revolves around the use of another author's words in her book "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys". She thought everyone had been settled back in 1987, but it wasn't.  She's here to talk about that. Doris Kearns Goodwin. Nice to see you, Doris.

Ms. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN (Historian and Author):  Good to see you, Katie.

COURIC:  Well, let's talk about this, because first Stephen Ambrose got some accusations that some of the words that he used in his book--I guess it was "Wild Blue" specifically--were passages that had been from source materials, in other--in other words, other books that had been written. And then your book, "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys", you were accused of doing some of the same things, taking passages from other works and really claiming them as your own. Tell me what exactly happened?

Ms. GOODWIN:  Well, in both cases, with Mr. Ambrose and myself, there were always footnotes to the authors.  So there's no way you could really be claiming them as your own if you point your way to that person every step along the way.  But what happened in my case was that in those days I was taking everything down in long hand, even writing the manuscript in long hand. So I would take long hand notes on maybe 200 books, and then years later--it was a 10-year process writing that book--when I went to use the notes, I thought I'd already fully paraphrased them, but instead there were some phrases that were still left from the actual author's words.  As soon as she contacted me about it, I made the correction she wanted.  She was fully satisfied, and I thought it was over.

COURIC:  This was back in 198...

Ms. GOODWIN:  1988.

COURIC:  '88--1988.

Ms. GOODWIN:  Yeah.  And then it all came to light again in an anonymous fax to the Weekly Standard after the Ambrose situation broke.

COURIC:  Tell us what steps you took?  You, in fact, had the paperback versions of the book destroyed, correct?

Ms. GOODWIN:  Well, what I wanted to do was to just make sure that the corrections were made before other people--the corrections were made at the time, but it was made in the way she asked me to, which was to just put footnotes in every step along the way.  What I really want to do is give her the quotes where she should have the quotes, so that's in the process of being done right now, so...

COURIC:  This has obviously been a very difficult time for you.  Do you feel that your reputation as an historian and a scholar and a writer has been damaged as a result?

Ms. GOODWIN:  Well, in the long run, I trust that it hasn't, that what your reputation is built on is a lifetime of the way people think about you as a person, the way they think about the books you've written.  And the quality of the books, I've got to believe, stand just as well except for these mechanical problems on this one book.