An ongoing cultural grapple over Ronald Reagan continues. Consider that conservative historian Craig Shirley wrote a book titled “Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All,” published a decade ago. Now he is suing megapublisher Simon & Schuster, claiming that their author Rick Perlstein, who penned “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,” lifted language and facts directly from his original work without direct attribution. The dispute has gotten coverage by multiple news organizations, most recently a New York Times account that incurred the wrath of high-profile Times readers annoyed that the paper would even cover Mr. Shirley’s claims. The hubbub prompted public editor Margaret Sullivan to write her own story.
New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin told the editor that accusations of plagiarism were “flimsy” and that Mr. Shirley’s charge was “a political attack on Perlstein dressed up as a journalistic ethics controversy.” Media analyst Felix Salmon called the matter “an entirely fake ‘controversy,’ ginned up wholly by wing nuts who think that Reagan is God and that any left-wing criticism of him, no matter how scholarly and intelligent, is tantamount to blasphemy.”
Mr. Salmon also said, “The New York Times is basically a co-conspirator here, in a concerted Swift-boating of Rick Perlstein. For shame.”
Assorted editors at The Times, meanwhile, told Ms. Sullivan they felt the paper had acted responsibly and that the offending article was newsworthy. All that said, she ultimately sided with Mr. Shirley’s critics in her account, concluding, “The Times article amplified a damaging accusation of plagiarism without establishing its validity and doing so in a way that is transparent to the reader. The standard has to be higher.”
And in response, here’s what Craig Shirley tells The Washington Times about the matter:
“Mr. Perlstein’s enablers keep trying to make this about ideology when it is in fact about plagiarism and shoddy writing and ‘invisible’ citations. Note his defenders keep desperately flailing, and since they can’t defend the indefensible, they engage is smears and falsehoods,” says Mr. Shirley.
“As for me, I just finished two more books on Reagan, just spoke at the Reagan Library on the 10th anniversary of his passing, have been invited to Regent University to give a talk about Reagan and have just been invited to become a Trustee at Eureka College, the Gipper’s alma mater,” the author concludes.