Quotes in Oliver North column lifted from j-prof/Vietnam vet’s book

Oliver North asked “dear friend” and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Sammy Davis to explain why it was important for Vietnam veterans to gather for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s Memorial Day ceremony.

In his May 18 syndicated column, North published this quote from Davis: “Comrades gather because they long to be with the men who once acted their best, men who suffered and sacrificed, who were stripped raw, right down to their humanity. I did not pick these men. They were delivered by fate. But I know them in a way I know no other men.”

The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi points out those same words appear in Vietnam veteran Michael Norman’s 1990 memoir, “These Good Men: Friendships Forged in War.”

Farhi writes:

How did Norman’s words end up attributed to a man who never said them? A mistake? Or a case of plagiarism?

The question continues to rile Norman. He said he was still waiting for an explanation from North, Davis and Fox News, which employs North as a program host and published his Memorial Day column on its Fox News Insider Web site. The site promotes Fox’s programs and news personalities.

“I’d just like them to give a clear account of how this happened,” said Norman, a former New York Times reporter who is a journalism professor at New York University. “So far, they’ve been anything but clear.”

Fox News removed the lifted quote from North’s column after Farhi pointed it out, and told readers in an editor’s note that North had included them “through no fault of his own.” Later, Fox simply took the piece offline. (It remains on other sites, though.)

What the network did, says Norman, was issue “a non-correction correction and a non-apology apology” and “from a journalism professor’s perspective, it’s one of the more bizarre handling of a plagiarism accusation that I’ve ever seen.”

* Oliver North column raises a vet’s ire (Washington Post)
* Oliver North’s Memorial Day column: “Welcome Home, Finally”
* NYU at war: Michael Norman (Washington Square News)


From: Michael Norman
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 10:59 AM
To: ‘comments@foxnewsinsider.com’
Subject: Fox News Insider Comments


Oliver North’s column May 18 2012 on FoxNewsInsider.com is built on a piece of plagiarism, and it is my book, “The Good Men: Friendships Forged from War” (Crown 1990) that was ripped off. The point of North’s column, indeed his entire conclusion, turns on a purported interview with a former Army PFC named Sammy Davis. Davis was awarded the medal of honor. Here’s North’s final bit:

Michael Norman

“I asked my dear friend Sammy Davis why it is important for Vietnam veterans to gather for this commemoration. He said, “Comrades gather because they long to be with the men who once acted their best, men who suffered and sacrificed, who were stripped raw, right down to their humanity.” Of the men he served with, he added: “I did not pick these men. They were delivered by fate. But I know them in a way I know no other men. I have never given anyone such trust. They were willing to guard something more precious than my life. They would have carried my reputation, the memory of me. It was part of the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to die for one another.” http://foxnewsinsider.com/2012/05/18/oliver-norths-common-sense-welcome-home-finally/

Davis quote comes directly, word for word, from my book “These Good Men,” page 293, original hardcover edition (1990 and see attached). Word for word. Either the medal of honor winner doesn’t care about stealing intellectual property (and I doubt that very much of such a brave man) or North made the whole thing up, which is to say he never interviewed Davis (one has to imagine Davis memorizing my book so that whenever he is interviewed he can hold forth with such passages), ripped off the passage from my book and put it in Davis’ mouth, all in the service of making a deadline for a Memorial Day column, all attributed to Davis (note the fraudulent attribution), whom, again, I’m sure, does not want to take part in a theft. The whole paragraph has the feeling of being piped, and I say this based on thirty-five years in the news business and service on three daily newspapers, including “The New York Times.”

I’m sure the editors of Fox News do not condone plagiarism in the work of their reporters and columnists and bloggers. I hope they will conduct an inquiry, and if North in fact did lift the passage, take the appropriate action. (An apology and proper attribution would suffice. And if the colonel did not take what is not his, I apologize, but still would like to know how my words got into Davis’s mouth in North’s column without the proper attribution.) Perhaps Lt. Col North forgot a line from the Marine Corps Hymn: “…and to keep our honor clean.”

Michael Norman (formerly Sgt. M.L. Norman, 2355550, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, Golf Co. 1968)


Michael Norman
Associate Professor
New York University
Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute
20 Cooper Square
New York, NY 10003