Former New York City mayor and current presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg pays the salaries of many journalists, as the founder, president, and CEO of his eponymous media empire. When he decided to run for president, he hired some of those journalists to work for his campaign. Tragically, he does not appear to have internalized one of the central precepts of the profession he patronizes: You can’t steal other people’s work. It’s called plagiarism, and it ends careers — unless your name is Benny Johnson, and then right-wing media will be there to catch you when you fall from grace.
But I digress. Back to Bloomberg. The Intercept reported on Thursday that large portions of Bloomberg’s policy proposals had been lifted directly from a variety of news sources. The theft was extensive: “[A]t least eight Bloomberg plans or accompanying fact sheets were direct copies of material from media outlets including CNN, Time, and CBS, a research center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the American Medical Association, Everytown for Gun Safety, Building America’s Future Educational Fund, and other organizations.” Two of those organizations — Everytown and Building America’s Future — are organizations that Bloomberg himself co-founded.
Among Bloomberg’s least original ideas are his green infrastructure proposal, which the Intercept says has now been removed entirely from the campaign’s website. (In an email to New York, Julie Wood, a spokesperson for Bloomberg, said the proposal is now back online.) Bloomberg also plagiarized his “All-In Economy” fact sheet, portions of his LGBTQ rights fact sheet, and nearly an entire section of a fact sheet on women’s health. Bloomberg’s team told the Intercept that many of the plagiarized documents “were fact sheets that went out via MailChimp, which doesn’t support footnote formatting.” Creative! Jayson Blair probably wishes he’d thought of that one.
A spokesperson for Bloomberg told the Intercept that the policies it didn’t remove have been edited to include links and citations. And Bloomberg isn’t the only Democratic candidate for president to inspire a small plagiarism scandal. Joe Biden reportedly plagiarized portions of his climate speech. Nor was that the first time the former vice-president got in trouble for lifting the work of others. His first plagiarism scandal occurred before I was born, when he admitted to improperly citing a law-review article. So Bloomberg has some company. He is unique, though, for being the only presidential candidate who actively employs people who would get fired for making the same mistake he did. Billionaires! They’re just lovable forgetful oafs.
This post has been updated to include a statement from the Bloomberg campaign and to clarify the extent of the plagiarism.