The Paste-American World: How Fareed Zakaria Plagiarized In His International Bestseller (And The Magazines He Used To Run)

by @blippoblappo & @crushingbort

Last Tuesday, Fareed Zakaria responded to our initial blog post showing that he had clearly and inappropriately copied and pasted other journalists’ work. He did so by demonstrably lying and getting a number of facts just plain wrong. We think our work held up pretty well, even more so after the response from a pretty diverse group of journalists. For those wondering what constitutes plagiarism, it might be helpful to first read this walkthrough from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Then keep scrolling, because today we’re adding even more to the pile by showing how Zakaria blatantly and repeatedly plagiarized in not just what is his most popular book, but two different cover stories for the magazines he used to serve as editor for, Foreign Affairs and Newsweek.

[Note: while we’re still using side-by-side image files to document our examples here, for convenience’s sake the end of this post also includes text versions.]


Before looking at today’s examples, it’s important to keep in mind that it only took one paragraph to land Zakaria in hot water in 2012. As Newsbusters pointed out back then, here is the passage on gun control from Jill Lepore’s 2012 New Yorker article:


And here is Zakaria’s passage lifting from that same piece:


When called out on this, Zakaria did not, as he did Tuesday, claim to be just citing facts. Instead, he called it a “terrible mistake.” It’s not clear how his standards have changed since then, but we’re hoping the examples below will give him a chance to elaborate.


Fareed Zakaria’s 2008 The Post-American World is the book that lets him call himself “a New York Times’ bestselling author.” The Times itself called it a “relentlessly intelligent book” and it gained even more prominence when then-Senator Barack Obama was spotted holding on to it during the presidential campaign. The book proved so popular that in 2011, a “2.0” edition was released with additional material.

Post-American World can be best described up as the kind of book your dad bought at the airport to kill time reading about This Changing Planet Of Ours, then bought again later because it had a 2.0 at the end, the way his phone’s fart noise app did when it added new fart noises. Zakaria’s website says the work features “trends he identified [that] have proceeded faster than anyone could have anticipated…As Zakaria eloquently argues, Washington needs to begin a serious transformation of its global strategy, moving from its traditional role of dominating hegemon to that of a more pragmatic, honest broker.”

It all sounds like a very intense effort by Zakaria to alert the nation to our shifting role in the world. What may not be publically known is that the 2.0 update, as well as related work that appeared in other outlets, feature content that Zakaria’s lifted heavily and often word-for-word, without attribution. On more than a number of occasions, Zakaria has taken entire paragraphs from the authors and shifted them around in an apparent attempt to avoid detection.

Example 1: Zakaria lifts verbatim from London School of Economics professor Fawas Gerges

Gerges is a professor at the London School of Economics who’s written extensively about the Middle East and appeared on Zakaria’s CNN show multiple times. Barely a dozen pages into Post-American World 2.0, Zakaria discusses Gerges’ analysis of some polling on the Middle East. He doesn’t say where he’s getting the analysis from; Gerges is not cited anywhere in the endnotes of the book. A little digging reveals that Zakaria appears to have not just taken the polling data from Gerges’ 2009 version of his book, “The Far Enemy,” and updated it slightly, but appropriated almost all of Gerges’ writing verbatim:


A paragraph later, Zakaria goes even further with his theft, lifting passages from Gerges’ October 2007 article for the Christian Science Monitor. Gerges had written about signs that Osama Bin Laden was worried about Al Qaeda in Iraq. Zakaria cribs from the article entirely word-for-word, only pausing to switch the second and third paragraphs around. For clarity, we’ve highlighted the relevant sections by color:


The same text appears in a 2010 Newsweek column by Zakaria. It was the magazine’s cover story.

When caught, some plagiarists hem and haw about their theft being a mere citation error. We want to stress that Zakaria does not cite Gerges anywhere in the endnotes. See for yourself:


Examples 2 thru 6: Zakaria copies a number of passages from Karl Meyer’s work in the World Policy Journal

Karl E. Meyer is an old-guard journalist and academic, having served as a member of the Washington Post’s editorial board, editor of the World Policy Journal, and visiting professor at Yale. He also happens to be another uncredited source of Zakaria’s. As we show below, his 2000 piece about Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee and the decline of the British Empire in the World Policy Journal, “Edwardian Warning: The Unraveling of a Colossus” was lucky it wasn’t left on cinder blocks.

Here is Meyer’s in the WPJ on one eight-year-old Arnold Toynbee’s experiences of the Diamond Jubilee, alongside Zakaria telling the same story in an extended Post-American World section on the same subject:


We’re presenting this to show the extremely narrow way in which Zakaria cites Meyer. The footnote (which is the only mention of Meyer or his article in the book) is citing Meyer’s use of the quote from Toynbee, not his broader scholarship on the Diamond Jubilee. When it comes to attribution this citation is inadequate in this example alone because it doesn’t indicate that Zakaria is closely mirroring Meyer’s contextualization of the quote. Some might see a room for debate here. For the sections below, they shouldn’t.

In his article, Meyer goes on at length describing the fleet that attended the Diamond Jubilee. Zakaria writes a description of the exact same scenario, with the same description of ships and sailors and the same Rear Admiral Prince Henry of Prussia looking on. There is no credit to Meyers. Again, we’ve used color to show how Zakaria has remixed the order of Meyer’s writing:


(A side note – when Zakaria lifts a passage, he often switches the spelling of the numbers within. If the numbers are spelled out, he changes them to figures, and vice versa. It’s not clear if this is an attempt to evade plagiarism software, but it’s certainly in violation of the Associated Press stylebook’s guidelines on numerals, which Meyer, on the other hand, adheres to.)

Here’s Meyer again on the British Empire and Olympic history, alongside passages that Zakaria again rearranges in an apparent attempt to evade Microsoft Plagiatron ’98 or whatever software his editors were using. We had to use a lot of colors for this one:


But there’s more fruit from the tree here. In 2008, he adapted a good chunk of Post-American World into a cover story for the May/June issue Foreign Affairs entitled “The Future of American Power.” The article uses most of the same passages we’ve shown were stolen from Meyer:

FA 3

FA 1FA 2

One could expect that given Zakaria’s experience working there from 1993 to 2000, including as managing editor, he would understand the need to use citations when borrowing so extensively. As with the book, no citations appear in the Foreign Affairs piece.


Readers deserve and should be able to expect a level of trust with journalists and the outlets that publish them. When we show that someone’s work has clearly been lifted from other sources without attribution, it’s only fair to give the writer and the outlet in question a chance to do the right thing. Despite the pooh-poohing of Buzzfeed and digital media last month over Benny Johnson, what we’ve seen from more traditional sources this week is that you can apparently reach a point where ethics are no longer necessary as long as you’re bringing in ratings or a prestigious byline.

It’s hard to see how the depth and extent of the examples we’ve shown don’t already go far beyond what Zakaria was suspended for in 2012. W.W. Norton, the publisher of Zakaria’s book, Newsweek, and Foreign Affairs owe it to everyone who ever picked up a copy of his work to review and address these issues. Because while Fareed Zakaria is not the only major columnist we’ve discovered with a plagiarism problem, he is the one that’s yielded the most examples so far. If necessary, Our Bad Media will continue to highlight those examples in the days ahead.


Gerges, 2009, “The Far Enemy”: Last year Pew surveys showed that in Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Bangladesh there were substantial declines in the percentages saying that the suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets can be justified to defend Islam against its enemies. Wide majorities say such attacks are, at most, rarely acceptable. The shift has been especially dramatic in Jordan, where 29 percent of Jordanians now view suicide attacks as “often or sometimes justified,” down from 57 percent in May 2005. In Indonesia, the largest majority Muslim nation, 74 percent of respondents agree that terrorist attacks are “never justified,” a substantial increase from the 41 percent level to which support had risen in March 2004; in Pakistan that figure is 86 percent; in Bangladesh, 81 percent; and in Iran, 80 percent. Compare those figures with a recent study that shows that only 46 percent of Americans think that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are “never justified,” while 24 percent believe these attacks are “often or sometimes justified.”


Zakaria, Post-American World 2.0, p. 14: The London School of Economics professor Fawaz Gerges has analyzed polls from dozens of Muslim countries over the past few years. He notes that in a range of places— Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Bangladesh—there have occurred substantial declines in the number of people who say suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets can be justi ied to defend Islam. Wide majorities say such attacks are, at most, rarely acceptable. The shift has been especially dramatic in Jordan, where only 12 percent of Jordanians view suicide attacks as “often or sometimes justified” (down from 57 percent in 2005). In Indonesia, 85 percent of respondents agree that terrorist attacks are “rarely/never justi ied” (in 2002, by contrast, only 70 percent opposed such attacks). In Pakistan, that figure is 90 percent, up from 43 percent in 2002. Gerges points out that, by comparison, only 46 percent of Americans say that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are “never justi ied,” while 24 percent believe these attacks are “often or sometimes justified.”


Gerges, October 2007: And last month, one of bin Laden’s most prominent Saudi mentors, the preacher and scholar Salman al-Odah, wrote an open letter reproaching him for “fostering a culture of suicide bombings that has caused bloodshed and suffering and brought ruin to entire Muslim communities and families.” Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda was dealt another shattering blow from within when one of its top theorists, Abdul-Aziz el-Sherif, renounced its extremes, including the killing of civilians and the choosing of targets based on religion and nationality. In the past few months, Mr. El-Sherif – a longtime associate of Zawahiri, who crafted what became known as Al Qaeda’s guide to jihad – called on militants to desist from terrorism and authored a dissenting rebuttal against his former cohorts. In early October, Abdulaziz al-Ashaikh, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued a fatwa prohibiting Saudis from engaging in jihad abroad and accused both bin Laden and Arab regimes of “transforming our youth into walking bombs to accomplish their own political and military aims.”


Zakaria, Post-American World 2.0, p. 14-15: In 2007 one of bin Laden’s most prominent Saudi mentors, the preacher and scholar Salman al-Odah, wrote an open letter criticizing him for “fostering a culture of suicide bombings that has caused bloodshed and suffering, and brought ruin to entire Muslim communities and families.” That same year Abdulaziz al ash-Sheikh, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued a fatwa prohibiting Saudis from engaging in jihad abroad and accused both bin Laden and Arab regimes of “transforming our youth into walking bombs to accomplish their own political and military aims.” One of Al Qaeda’s own top theorists, Abdul-Aziz el-Sherif, renounced its extremism, including the killing of civilians and the choosing of targets based on religion and nationality. Sherif—a longtime associate of Zawahiri who crafted what became known as Al Qaeda’s guide to jihad—has called on militants to desist from terrorism, and authored a rebuttal of his former cohorts.


Meyer, Winter 2000/2001, World Policy Journal: “More typical were the delighted hurrahs of eight-year-old Arnold Toynbee, who watched the Jubilee parade from his uncle’s shoulders, and felt as if the sun itself were “standing still in the midst of Heaven, as it had once stood still there at the bidding of Joshua.

  • Zakaria, Post-American World: In London, eight-year-old Arnold Toynbee was perched on his uncle’s shoulders, eagerly watching the parade. Toynbee, who grew up to become the most famous historian of his age, recalled that, watching the grandeur of the day, it felt as if the sun were “standing still in the midst of Heaven.”

Meyer: For the Diamond Jubilee, the biggest fleet ever assembled was on review at Portsmouth: 165 warships carrying 40,000 seamen and 3,000 guns, a line extending 30 ironclad miles. Observers from 14 foreign navies were able to inspect through binoculars the Royal Navy’s prize possessions, including 11 new battleships, unrivaled for their speed and armor, and 5 first-class and 13 second-class cruisers, together with scores of other battleships, cruisers, and torpedo-boat destroyers. Looking on from a creaking German battleship, British-built and now downgraded to first-class cruiser, was Rear Admiral Prince Henry of Prussia

  • Zakaria: “During the Diamond Jubilee, 165 ships carrying forty thousand seamen and three thousand guns were on display in Portsmouth—the largest fleet ever assembled. [Footnote] Observers from fourteen foreign navies were in attendance, eagerly taking in the spectacle. One of them, the German rear admiral Prince Henry of Prussia, looked on enviously from the deck of his British-built battleship, which had recently been downgraded to a cruiser.”

Meyer: “The world took note. From Paris, the Figaro’s editorialist commented that Rome itself had been “equaled, if not surpassed, by the Power which in Canada, Australia, India, in the China Seas, in Egypt, Central and Southern Africa, in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean rules the peoples and governs their interests.” The New York Times went further: “We are a part, and a great part, of the Greater Britain which seems so plainly destined to dominate this planet.” In Berlin, the voice of Junkerdom, the Kreuzzeitung acknowledged that the British Empire was “practically unassailable.”

  • Zakaria: The British were hardly alone in making comparisons between their empire and Rome. Paris’ Le Figaro declared that Rome itself had been “equaled, if not surpassed, by the Power which in Canada, Australia, India, in the China Seas, in Egypt, Central and Southern Africa, in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean rules the peoples and governs their interests.” The Kreuz-Zeitung in Berlin, which usually reflected the views of the anti-English Junker elite, described the empire as “practically unassailable.” Across the Atlantic, The New York Times gushed, “We are a part, and a great part, of the Greater Britain which seems so plainly destined to dominate this planet.”

Meyer: “The imperial historian Ronald Hyam notes that the British with their engineering feats laid the mechanical basis for a global marketplace. Beginning in the 1870s, the empire was linked by 170,000 nautical miles of ocean cable and 662,000 miles of aerial wire and buried cable.

  • Zakaria: “The empire was protected by the Royal Navy, the greatest seafaring force in history, and linked by 170,000 nautical miles of ocean cables and 662,000 miles of aerial and buried cables.”

Meyer: Among the unexpected results was the rebirth of the Olympics, the work of a French Anglomane, Baron de Coubertin (1865–1937), who as a youngster had read in translation Tom Brown’s School Days, by Thomas Hughes. Smitten with British ideals of fair play and amateurism, and with the lofty precepts of Dr. Arnold, headmaster at Tom Brown’s Rugby, Coubertin in 1894 founded the International Olympic Committee. Two years later, the Modern Games were launched in Athens as (in Ian Buruma words) “an English bucolic fantasy out of Thomas Hughes, mixed with a dose of Hellenism.”

  • Zakaria: “For example, the ideas of fair play, athleticism, and amateurism propounded by the famous English educator Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby (where Tom Brown’s School Days was set), heavily influenced the Frenchman Baron de Coubertin—who, in 1896, launched the modern Olympic games. The writer Ian Buruma has aptly described the Olympics as “an English Bucolic fantasy.””

 Update: edited for typos


How And Why Lying About Plagiarism Is Bad – A Response To Fareed Zakaria And Fred Hiatt

by @blippoblappo & @crushingbort

Yesterday, Our Bad Media posted an article about a pattern of lifted text in the work of Fareed Zakaria in TIME, the Washington Post, and CNN that came after all three outlets claimed to have reviewed Zakaria’s work for plagiarism. While the outlets are all standing by their previous reviews of his work, TIME’s statement is notable for highlighting the fact that Zakaria no longer works for them. Politico’s Dylan Byers received a response from Zakaria himself that defended his work by outright lying and obfuscating about what we posted. We understand that the global brand Fareed Zakaria brings to the table is considerable, but that doesn’t make his explanation any less bullshit.

We’re standing by our previous piece. Below, we’ve posted the entirety of Zakaria’s reply with our responses:

In August 2012, CNN, Time and the Washington Post separately conducted extensive reviews of my commentary. As one part of this process, they ran my columns and cover stories (which span over 20 years) through software programs designed to detect plagiarism. All three informed me that the reviews cleared me fully. Two anonymous bloggers today have alleged that there are 11 cases in my writing where I have cited a statistic that also appeared somewhere else. These are all facts, not someone else’s writing or opinions or expressions.

The bolded is patently untrue. What our investigation works to show is not that Zakaria forgot to cite simple statistics in his pieces, but rather that he lifted extensively from the work of others. We already know it’s a problem because lifting entire passages of facts from other writers is exactly the kind of behavior that got him suspended in 2012. Take the highlighted words in the example below. Zakaria told Byers that he tries to go “as close to the original source as possible” in his work. Then why would he take 44 of David Leonhardt’s words, paste them in the exact same order (minus the words “well-known”), and only remove the sentence mentioning the Capital IQ analysis that was done for the New York Times? Leonhardt

Or take this example, where Zakaria happens to write 11 words in the exact same order as they appeared in a Peter Beinart article.


Or take this example. Vadim Nikitin writes a 39-word summary of a Levada Center study; Zakaria takes it, deletes the words “May/June” and “notorious,” adds the word “Russians,” and pastes it into his TIME column.


Other examples may take closer scrutiny to see wrongdoing. But the examples above clearly show what Zakaria professes they don’t: “someone else’s writing or opinions or expressions.” Just because another journalist’s phrases happen to include statistics does not mean they are free game for cribbing without attribution.

For example, in one column, I note that the national debt tripled under Ronald Reagan. The bloggers point out that this is also in Wikipedia’s Reagan entry. But it is also in hundreds of other articles, studies, and reports — just Google the phrase. Until today, I had never read the Wikipedia entry for Ronald Reagan. As it happens, it is incorrect. (There is a difference between “public debt” – Wikipedia’s words — and national debt.)

There are three problems with Zakaria’s defense. First, we didn’t merely point out that Zakaria used a certain statistic. We demonstrated that he did so using phrasing very similar to that of a Wikipedia entry. In the image below, you can see that Zakaria merely remixes same words written by Wikipedians – changing “during” to “under,” moving “1971 to 2009” around in the first sentence, etc.


Second – and more crucially – Zakaria leaves out that plagiarism isn’t narrowly defined as taking the same words from another source. It’s also using the same ideas. Basic facts obviously don’t count as “ideas,” but synthesis & comparison of facts do. Whoever wrote the Wikipedia article had the idea to take the spending under Reagan and compare it to spending from 1971 to 2009, and next, take the public debt in 1980 and compare it to the public debt in 1988. In that order. Zakaria’s article presents the exact same idea in a very similar presentation. That’s subtle, but nevertheless textbook, plagiarism.

Third, Zakaria’s implication that the difference between public debt and national debt (for the uninitiated, national debt = public debt + intergovernmental debt) makes his piece divergent from the Wikipedia article is bizarre. If he thought there was a difference, why did he cite the same numbers ($712 billion to $2 trillion) for the national debt that Wikipedia uses for the public debt? Here’s the kicker: by changing “public debt” to “national debt,” Zakaria is the one who ends up with an “incorrect” article. According to the CBO, public debt went from $712 billion in 1980 to $2 trillion in 1988. According to the Fed, national debt went from $909 billion in 1980 to $2.6 trillion in 1988.

My usual procedure with a piece of data that I encounter is to check it out, going as close to the original source as is possible. If the data is government generated (GDP, spending on pensions, tax rates, defense spending, etc) then I often don’t cite a source since it is in the public domain.

If Zakaria had done his research, “going as close to the original source as possible” (instead of changing a word to try and cover his tracks), he would not have made the error he did.

If it is a study or survey produced by a think tank, then I usually cite the institution that conducted the survey. In many of these cases, there was a link in my column to the source. This was not always possible, however, because Time magazine, for example, did not always allow for links.My columns are often data-heavy, so I try to use common sense, putting a source into the text when it was necessary.

Two problems here. First, Zakaria laying the blame for failure to attribute at the feet of TIME “not always allow[ing] for links” is about as bad as it gets. Any journalist knows that medium is no excuse for citation problems. If you can’t link, simply put “according to.”

Second, even if we allow all the instances of errors in TIME to fly because of a problem with the medium (which we shouldn’t), then an error like the one below is still inexcusable because it appeared in one of his online Washington Post columns, which are usually chock-full of hyperlinks. As you can see below, none of the information lifted from Korb et. al. is hyperlinked back to their original study.



Even when Zakaria does link to Korb, it does not go back to the Korb et. al. CAP study he cribbed from, but rather a CNNMoney op-ed by Korb that has none of the information Zakaria appeared to lift from the CAP report.

In many of the columns cited by the bloggers, I found the data they refer to in a primary source not the secondary one that they highlight. For example, in my column that mentions Greece’s debt, I noted that “one estimate” suggests that Greece has been in default for half of its existence since its independence. The bloggers found a Businessweek article that had the same fact. But I didn’t get it from there; I never read that article. The “estimate” I refer to is in the scholarly book by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, “This Time It’s Different” – which I did read. The Businessweek article, incidentally, does not cite the Rogoff book or any source at all for the same fact Does that mean that the Businessweek author was claiming that he was the source for it? No, of course not, because it was a fact in wide circulation at the time.

First, Zakaria says that we’re accusing him of using the same primary source as Businessweek for the information about Greece’s debt. We’re not. What we show is that Zakaria takes the same information as Peter Coy, changes a few key words, and puts it in his article. “Since winning independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, the nation has” is changed to “Since it gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, Greece has” while “spent half its time in various stages of default or restructuring” is chopped in half and reversed, leaving, “has been default or restricting for half this period.” Coy


Second Zakaria is- well, there’s no other way to say it – straight up lying here when he says Coy “does not cite the Rogoff book or any source at all for the same fact.” See for yourself:


There is one additional case – the 12th — that involves, not a piece of data, but a quote from Richard Holbrooke that also appeared in a George Packer essay in the New Yorker. I got that from a direct conversation with Holbrooke in person several months before he died. He had made that particular comment to me many times. I asked him in this case if I could quote him. He agreed. I put it into my notebook, marked, “for attribution.”

There’s not much to add here other than the two possible conclusions that can be reached: 1. that Holbrooke regularly faced this observation, Zakaria would somehow overlook Clinton’s role in it, and then hold on to that quote for about a year, or 2. Zakaria plagiarized from the New Yorker. There’s public precedent for one of these.




Last, but not least, is a response to not just Zakaria but Mr. Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post, the paper’s editorial page editor who popped approximately eight monocles yesterday while scoffing that it was “reckless even to suggest this is plagiarism.” The use of the word “reckless” shows an incredible lack of self-awareness for someone who headed the Post’s editorial board when it was cheerleading the country into war in Iraq.

“Reckless” is also a funny choice of words for someone who just assumed that this was all we had to post. Our Bad Media will have more extensive examples of plagiarism by Fareed Zakaria later this week.

Did CNN, The Washington Post, and TIME Actually Check Fareed Zakaria’s Work For Plagiarism?

by @blippoblappo & @crushingbort


Following our reports on Benny Johnson and plagiarism last month, a number of news outlets ran articles analyzing the future of journalism in the Buzzfeed age. Politico’s Dylan Byers, discussing the lack of journalistic training among newer digital outlets, interviewed several journalists and experts on what constituted aggregation versus plagiarism. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple contrasted some of the more blatant plagiarism with the efforts of “Web journos everywhere who fiddle to no end with their copy to guarantee originality[.]” And the New York Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan warned of “the realities of journalism in the digital age” that made plagiarism so easy to find. “There’s no cover of darkness anymore for plagiarists,” she wrote. “These days, they’re always working under a searchlight.”

Who exactly has been operating that searchlight is unclear. An investigation by Our Bad Media has found that one of the nation’s most prominent journalists has a history of lifting material in his work across several major publications – despite public assurances from his employers that a previous plagiarism scandal was only an isolated incident.

As “the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation,” Fareed Zakaria is a busy man—not just as the host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” but also as an editor-at-large at TIME, and a columnist at the Washington Post. Since his post-9/11 famous (or infamous) Newsweek story, “Why Do They Hate Us?” Zakaria has made the list of Foreign Policy’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers,” alongside modern-day Aristotles like Thomas Friedman and Malcolm Gladwell. “My friends all say I’m going to be Secretary of State, [but] I don’t see how that would be much different from the job I have now” he allegedly told New York Magazine in a 2003 profile (a quote he later disputed). More importantly, Zakaria is a decorated journalist, having won a Peabody for his work on CNN, a Deadline Club Award for his “Why Do They Hate Us?” column, a National Magazine Award for his Newsweek work, two Overseas Press Club Awards, and an accolade from the Indian government for his contributions to journalism.

Despite these accolades, it was just two years ago this month that Zakaria was facing the fallout from a plagiarism scandal. Newsbusters’ Tim Graham and NRANews’ Cam Edwards had highlighted one of his columns for TIME that had lifted passages on gun control from a New Yorker article by Jill Lepore. They also noted that in 2009, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg had complained about Zakaria lifting quotes from his own interviews with notable subjects, without attribution. In the days that followed, Zakaria would end up issuing an apology over what he called a “terrible mistake,” and both TIME and CNN would suspend him for a month.



When Buzzfeed conducted an “exhaustive review” of Benny Johnson’s works last month, they found dozens of additional examples of plagiarism. When Zakaria’s plagiarism story broke in 2012, TIME, CNN, and the Washington Post seemed to respond in similar fashion, reportedly conducting reviews of his past work to determine if he had lifted elsewhere without attribution. The results in this case were vastly different:

  • TIME cleared Zakaria of any additional plagiarism, with Managing Editor Richard Stengel telling the New York Times that Zakaria would recover as “one of the premier global intellectuals.” A official statement from TIME appeared to go even further, saying the column was an “unintentional error and an isolated incident.”
  • In a statement from CNN, the network claimed that after a “rigorous” review of Zakaria’s work for the network, they found “nothing that merited continuing the suspension.” Writing the incident off as a “journalistic lapse,” the statement went on the praise his work as “quality journalism.” But as Poynter’s Craig Silverman pointed out, it wasn’t entirely clear what sort of review was undertaken, and a CNN spokesperson refused to detail “the internal process” any further.
  • In a Washington Post article on the plagiarism charges and the ensuing reviews, the Post’s editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, stated that the paper “never had any reason to doubt the integrity” of Zakaria’s work. While it’s not clear what the result of the review was at the Post, the fact that Zakaria still writes for them appears to speak for itself.

In short, Zakaria was in the clear after what three of the biggest news outlets in America wrote off as an isolated, one-time mistake. Even the shame in Zakaria’s initial apology seemed to quickly dissipate. Here’s Zakaria in an apology sent to The Wire when the story first broke:

Media reporters have pointed out that paragraphs in my Time column this week bear close similarities to paragraphs in Jill Lepore’s essay in the April 23rd issue of The New Yorker. They are right. I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault. I apologize unreservedly to her, to my editors at Time, and to my readers.

And here’s Zakaria in the New York Times a week later, blaming the mistake on a mix-up of research notes:

The mistake, he said, occurred when he confused the notes he had taken about Ms. Lepore’s article — he said he often writes his research in longhand — with notes taken from “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” by Adam Winkler (W.W. Norton, 2011), a copy of which was on his desk at his CNN office.

Unless Adam Winkler’s book on gun rights detoured into issues like the Chinese movie industry and corporate tax rates, the examples below seem unlikely to have been the result of another notes mix-up by Zakaria.



These are all articles that were written before the plagiarism scandal in August of 2012. In other words, these passages ostensibly would have been part of the reviews conducted by CNN, TIME and the Washington Post. Unless otherwise noted, none of the examples listed here have any kind of citation (hyperlink or otherwise) to the sources Zakaria lifted from.

1. Zakaria didn’t just lift any statistics from a New York Times article on corporate tax rates, he lifted them from a Times commissioned report

In a February 2011 article on corporate taxes by the New York Times, David Leonhardt cited research firm Capital IQ in an analysis commissioned by the Times. In an October 2011 TIME column on then-presidential candidate Herman Cain, Zakaria cited those same Capital IQ statistics nearly word-for-word—with no mention of the New York Times or the Capital IQ report they paid for.


2. Zakaria appeared to lift from The Telegraph in an article on the Chinese movie industry, including a section on piracy

In a July 11th, 2011 article for the Telegraph, Shanghai correspondent Malcolm Moore penned an article on the Chinese government’s manipulation of the box office, using some very specific examples. Only several days later, Zakaria posted a TIME column on “China’s New Parochialism,” a piece highlighting the very same examples as Moore’s article in the very same sequence, including the delay of Transformers and Harry Potter, reports of empty cinema houses, and, without any apparent sense of irony, the comments section of the Chinese piracy website “VeryCD”:


3. Zakaria appears to have copied the contents of a Bloomberg report on Chinese windmills for an article on U.S. manufacturing

In February 2012, Zakaria wrote a TIME article titled, “The Case for Making It in the USA,” which argues for state supported manufacturing programs. As support for his position, Zakaria cites the case of Chinese backing of two windmill producers, lifting from an October 2011 Bloomberg report by Natalie Obiko Pearson.


CNN published a similar version of Zakaria’s column, which includes a condensed version of Pearson’s material.

4 & 5. Zakaria appears to have cribbed from both Vanity Fair and Forbes for an article on pension reform.

In June 2012, Zakaria published an article in TIME titled, “Why We Need Pension Reform.” To bolster his argument, Zakaria spends a paragraph pointing to the fiscal turmoil in both California and San Jose. This section plagiarizes from both a November 2011 Michael Lewis piece in Vanity Fair, titled “California and Bust,” and a November 2011 Forbes article that builds on Lewis’s reporting.


6. Zakaria re-posted the summary of a Russian think tank survey from The Nation

Writing for The Nation in a July 2011 article on Russian civil society, journalist Vadim Nikitin cites a Levada Center poll on public corruption under President Vladimir Putin. The question and results, which can be seen here on page 118, were represented in this table:


In December 2011, Zakaria wrote a TIME article titled, “The People Vs. Putin,” in which he summarizes the results of a Levada Center survey on Russia’s political mood. Zakaria’s summary of the poll is nearly identical to the one written by Nikitin:


CNN published the same paragraph (as well as a link to the TIME article) on Zakaria’s GPS blog the same month.

7. Zakaria began an article on the Greek debt crisis in an identical way to a similar article by Businessweek

In June of 2011, Businessweek economics editor Peter Coy began his piece on Greece’s debt crisis, “How to Save Greece,” by putting Greece’s fiscal struggles into historical context. In May 2012, Zakaria wrote a TIME article titled, “Time for Greece to Say Danke to Germany” that begins with the same contextualization.


CNN published the offending paragraph (as well as a link to the TIME article) on Zakaria’s GPS blog the same month.

8. Zakaria pulled material from a Center for American Progress report for a column on cutting defense spending

In August 2011, Zakaria wrote a Washington Post column titled, “Why defense spending should be cut,” which attacked the growth of the Pentagon budget. Zakaria’s piece lifts text extensively from a July 2011 Center for American Progress report, “A Return to Responsibility,” written by Lawrence J. Korb, Laura Conley, and Alex Rothman.


NOTE: Zakaria does cite Korb later in the article, but just support of a $1 trillion cut to defense spending:

Lawrence Korb, who worked at the Pentagon for Ronald Reagan, believes that a $1 trillion cut over 10 to 12 years is feasible without compromising national security.

Importantly, Zakaria’s link does not go back to the Korb et. al. CAP study, but rather a CNNMoney op-ed by Korb that has none of the information Zakaria appeared to lift from the CAP report.

Shortly after the Washington Post column was published, CNN ran a similar piece by Zakaria on his GPS blog that also uses the CAP report without credit. Again, Zakaria cites a Korb op-ed for an unrelated factoid:

A recent report by Lawrence Korb, who worked at the Pentagon for Ronald Reagan, posits that a $1 trillion cut over 10 to 12 years is feasible without compromising national security.

Zakaria’s link is dead, but indicates that it linked back to a Korb op-ed in the Huffington Post that, again, has none of the information Zakaria took from the CAP report.

9. Zakaria’s column on health insurance has striking similarities to a Washington Post analysis of an IFHP report.

On March 26, 2012, Zakaria published a TIME piece titled, “Health Insurance Is For Everyone.” In it, Zakaria plagiarizes the title and content of an article by Ezra Klein that summarizes an International Federation of Health Plans report.


In can be reasonably inferred that Zakaria was plagiarizing Klein’s interpretation of the study, rather than reading the study himself and coming to similar conclusions. Klein’s citation of the “22 of 23 cases,” “doctor’s visit to a dose of Lipitor” and specific citation of the MRI figure were all unique to his piece at the time. IFHP’s press release on the report, as well as the report itself, do not use Klein’s language.

CNN published the offending paragraph (as well as a link to the TIME article) on Zakaria’s GPS blog the same month.


10. Zakaria appeared to lift an anecdote about Richard Holbrooke from the New Yorker’s George Packer

In a 2009 New Yorker profile of the late Richard Holbrooke, George Packer recounted the ambassador’s response to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telling him he would be Gen. David Petraeus’ “civilian counterpart.” Zakaria, in a 2011 Washington Post column, “Why defense spending should be cut,” appears to recount Holbrooke’s response in the same manner Jeffrey Goldberg found so annoying in 2009. Note Zakaria attributing the “civilian counterpart” comment to “media accounts” and leaving the reader unclear as to whether or not Holbrooke’s quote was directly to him (although he does seem to suggest a personal familiarity with the ambassador’s many cellphones):


Some might wonder if maybe the “civilian counterpart” comment was one Holbrooke faced on a regular basis, each occasion met with laughter and the same reply about phones and planes. In that case, it’s worth noting that Zakaria’s direct quote of Holbrooke, slightly different from Packer’s, doesn’t appear to exist in the public record outside of Zakaria’s column.

11. Zakaria used text in a column on the 2011 debt deal that is nearly identical to that in a Wikipedia article

In August 2011, Zakaria wrote a TIME article titled “The Debt Deal’s Failure,” taking much of the nation’s leadership to task for which plagiarizes text from the summary of the Wikipedia article for Reaganomics.


12. Zakaria copy-and-pasted a line from a TIME article by Peter Beinart into his piece on the debt deal.

In the same August 2011 TIME article he used Wikipedia in, Zakaria lifts a string of text verbatim from a February 2010 article in TIME by Peter Beinart.


The CNN reproduction of the article on Zakaria’s GPS blog includes the same language.


Fareed Zakaria is not a twenty-something digital media blogger charged with putting together Jurassic Park listicles. Fareed Zakaria is a news editor and a New York Times bestselling author who holds a B.A. from Yale and a Ph.D. from Harvard. In other words, someone who should be more than familiar with proper citation by now. The above examples are from a span of less than two years and do not include his work since, his columns at Newsweek from 2001-2010, or the books he wrote before 2012.

As we mentioned before, Buzzfeed’s in-house review of Benny Johnson’s work last month turned up numerous more examples of plagiarism. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that a thorough review took place. But the same can’t be said for the outlets that ran Zakaria’s work. These examples raise far more serious questions about the integrity of Zakaria’s editors at CNN, TIME, and the Washington Post, all of whom claimed to have conducted similar reviews and found nothing. In the light of our findings, we have to call bullshit. It took less than an hour and a few Google searches for us at Our Bad Media to find an example of lifting in Zakaria’s columns written before the 2012 plagiarism scandal. So we’re left to wonder: did TIME, CNN, or the Washington Post actually conduct good faith reviews of Zakaria’s work? Have they since?