Ann Coulter’s Plagiarism – High Crimes

[See Propaganda: Orwell in the Age of Ann Coulter for a more detailed examination of Ann Coulter’s much-neglected plagiarism in her very first book. To date, Coulter has yet to publicly acknowledge the many contributions in words and research provided by her colleague, Michael Chapman. – DB]

The publication of High Crimes and Misdemeanors launched Ann Coulter’s literary career and expanded her meager credentials as a journalist.

Plagiarist01

In 1998, on Washington Journal, Coulter boasted of how impressed her law professors were over her own research: “Both my undergraduate at Cornell and University of Michigan professors have been quite impressed with what I’ve turned up on “high crimes and misdemeanors.”[1] What, exactly, did Coulter “turn up” that so impressed her professors? As it turns out, one of her most cited sources was the Rodino Report (on Watergate), which was coauthored by Hillary Rodham Clinton who, seemingly, did the grunt work for Coulter.

While Coulter verbally took credit for research performed by Hillary Clinton, wife of her intended impeachment target in High Crimes, in late 2001, it was discovered that she also took credit for her colleague’s research into and reporting of various Clinton scandals.

In October 2001, the Boston Globe published a scoop revealing allegations of plagiarism by Coulter, who then threatened a lawsuit if the story was published. Regnery stood by its best-selling author (money talks, power corrupts), denying any plagiarism took place. The facts prove otherwise.

The most factual of Coulter’s books, High Crimes perhaps owes that accuracy in part to its undisclosed de facto co-author, Michael Chapman.

Published in June 1998, to both capitalize on and influence the impending impeachment of President Clinton, High Crimes included both the words and the research of Michael Chapman, who at that time was Associate Editor for Human Events. According to a corroborating source at Human Events, Regnery “should have given him credit. They treated him wrong on that. He really wrote and researched most of the material. The book does not acknowledge the huge amount of research done by Michael Chapman.”[2]

As of this writing, Regnery and Eagle Publishing have never officially credited Chapman’s contribution to this book, despite the written evidence and the direct personal knowledge of key players at Eagle Publishing. Indeed, they – and Coulter herself – assert Coulter’s sole authorship of High Crimes.

Not only does Coulter continue to claim she wrote every word, she even denies knowing – and knowing of – Michael Chapman, a co-worker with whom she attended weekly editorial meetings at Human Events. However, Coulter did admit to a Coulter fan and friend of Chapman, at a CPAC conference, that the exclusion of Chapman’s name from her book was “an editorial oversight.” The chronology – and the actions of Coulter et. al. – prove otherwise.

Plagiarism & Ghost Writers

Chris Matthews asked Coulter about her about-to-be-released third book, Treason (2003):[3]

MATTHEWS: “Let me ask you, why’s your book going to be better than Hillary’s?”

COULTER: “Well, for one thing, because I wrote my book.”

MATTHEWS: “Are you charging Hillary with plagiarism or having a ghost writer?”

COULTER: “No, no, well, of course, she has a ghost writer. I mean, I don’t think that’s disputed or particularly dishonorable. But I believe you write your own books.”

Coulter chided Hillary Clinton for not writing her book when, as it turns out, Coulter’s first book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors, was not entirely her own. Coulter borrowed some sections from a co-worker whom she later disavowed even knowing. Portions of High Crimes were unquestionably plagiarized from Michael Chapman and portions may even have been ghostwritten by David Wagner.[4] Let’s examine the chronology.

February & March, 1998 – Other Authors

Circa Feb. 12th – Terence P. Jeffrey (Editor, Human Events) and Michael Chapman (Associate Editor and Clinton reporter for Human Events), were originally tasked with writing an impeachment book.

Circa Feb. 13th – Jeffrey dissolved the agreement because he didn’t believe that Clinton had committed an impeachable offense.

Feb. 19th – Regnery asked Chapman to co-author what would become the Coulter book.

Feb. 20th – Chapman presented Regnery with a proposal containing the same terms and conditions of his previous agreement with Jeffrey.

Circa Feb. 23rd – Mark Ziebarth rejected Chapman’s conditions, which included insistence on co-authorship credit and copyright retention.

Circa March 2nd – Coulter entered Chapman’s office, demanding his files and research. Chapman says, “She was adamant, impatient, and acted as if she deserved those files.” Chapman later gave those files (paper and electronic) to Thomas M. Winter (Editor-in-Chief, Human Events). “Tom told me that he was sure they would have to give me some type of credit or acknowledgement.”

Early March – David Wagner (former writer for Insight magazine) took possession of the office next to Chapman’s to ghost-write the manuscript for Coulter. Chapman says, “Wagner was ghostwriting the Coulter manuscript. He had Human Events articles and the booklets on impeachment and other materials in his office. Everyone in the office knew what was going on. It was no secret.”

June 8, 1998 – Original Research

Coulter appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal boasting that “both my undergraduate at Cornell and University of Michigan professors have been quite impressed with what I’ve turned up on ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’”[5] Actually, Coulter drew heavily from Raoul Berger’s book,[6] the Rodino Report,[7] and the Federalist Papers.

Indeed, the preponderance of materials directly related to “high crimes and misdemeanors” is actually contained in those three sources. Hardly “original” research. One could reasonably contend that Hillary Rodham “turned up” more on “high crimes and misdemeanors” in the Rodino Report than Coulter did in High Crimes.

August, 1998 – Book Publication

Regnery published High Crimes and Misdemeanors under Coulter’s sole byline. The cover prominently featured President Clinton’s photo. Subsequent reprints and paperback versions sport a Coulter photo and sole authorship given to Coulter.

December 17, 1998 – Michael Chapman

Michael Chapman sent a letter to the Trustees of the Phillips Foundation. In it he stated:

“From what I have seen so far, verbatim passages from my writing are found on pages 121, 122, 219 and 220 of the High Crimes book. Rewritten passages are reproduced on pages 125, 126, 127 and 220. Other material I wrote is paraphrased on pages 123, 124, 203, 204, 205, 214, and 218.”

“Furthermore, mostly all of chapter 18, ‘Wampumgate,’ is a rewrite or paraphrase of reporting I did for HE.”

October 18, 2001 – Boston Globe

Rumors about Chapman’s work reached the Boston Globe[8] and Coulter’s attack machine immediately went into action. Coulter threatened lawsuits and denied ever knowing – or having heard of – Chapman.

Richard E. Signoreli, Coulter’s lawyer, sent Alex Beam an email[9] to dissuade him from publication.

“I am legal counsel for Ann Coulter. I write in connection with an article that I understand you are preparing about my client and her book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors. You should know that Ms. Coulter’s book was not ghostwritten at all. Ms. Coulter researched and wrote the entire book from beginning to end with no assistance whatsoever from any ghostwriter.”

“This e-mail will put you on notice that the information you are receiving from a Michael Chapman about this subject is completely false. Ms. Coulter does not even know who Mr. Chapman is and Mr. Chapman did not contribute any writing or research for her book.”

“We consider any statement by anyone that Ms. Coulter’s book was ghostwritten not only to be totally and recklessly false, but libelous as well. Ms. Coulter’s reputation will be significantly harmed if such a statement was printed in your newspaper. Please be advised that legal action will be taken against you, the Boston Globe, and Mr. Chapman if your article states that Ms. Coulter’s book was ghostwritten, or was even partially written by someone else.”

Nevertheless, the Boston Globe story was published:

“… But now Coulter is facing less welcome publicity – the suggestion that she is not the sole author of the 1998 bestseller ‘High Crimes and Misdemeanors’ that brought her to national prominence as a telegenic Clinton-basher and poster girl for the right-wing establishment.”

“The charges were first leveled in a memo by Michael Chapman, formerly a colleague of Coulter’s at the conservative weekly Human Events. In December 1998, shortly after Coulter’s book came out, Chapman complained to his bosses that a lot of his original research and reporting – carried out for a special 1997 Human Events supplement called ‘A Case for Impeachment’ – ended up in Coulter’s book. In several instances, he wrote, his work was reproduced verbatim, paraphrased, or slightly rewritten, but never acknowledged. Chapman had originally volunteered to ghostwrite the impeachment book, but Regnery Publishing, which is owned by the same company as Human Events, didn’t sign a contract with him. Instead, David Wagner, then a writer at Insight magazine, was hired to write a draft of the impeachment book project. …”

“Regnery’s executive editor Harry Crocker said Wagner ‘drew some stuff together. Ann read those chapters and she read Chapman’s work as well. They offered some basis for source material, but it was my impression that she threw those drafts away as irrelevant. … If you took a page of [Chapman’s impeachment report] and a page of her book, she thinks you wouldn’t find any overlap. The book is 100 percent Ann Coulter.’”

Richard E. Signoreli sent Beam a second email,[10] this one to encourage a retraction. In the second, Signorelli wrote:

“Your October 18, 2001 column suggesting my client Ann Coulter engaged in a misuse of the May 23, 1997 Human Events Impeachment Report is recklessly and intentionally false. You have falsely identified a Michael Chapman as the author of the Report. In fact, Ann Coulter was herself a co-author of the May 23, 1997 Human Events Impeachment Report.”

Coulter’s attorney wrote:

“As is obvious on the face of the report, Chapman was the sole author only of the introduction to that report (which is not the source of the statements you cite as evidence of misuse.) The rest was a Human Events staff report that lifted passages directly from, among other things, Ms. Coulter’s earlier columns in Human Events. It is outrageous – intentionally malicious – that you neglect to mention the indisputably crucial fact that Ms. Coulter herself was part author of the very report you accuse her of misusing. Incidentally, Ms. Coulter still does not recall knowing Mr. Chapman. …”

“As I repeatedly informed you, Ms. Coulter researched and wrote all of High Crimes and Misdemeanors from beginning to end with no assistance whatsoever. Her editor and publisher can confirm this. …”

Errors in these two emails from Coulter’s lawyers include:

  • If Coulter was a co-author of the Special Report, this contradicts her claim of not knowing Chapman.
    Material from Chapman’s article (“Casino Lobbyist: ‘I talk to Al Gore a Lot,’ Wanted Veep to Intervene with Babbitt,” by Michael Chapman, Human Events, 2/13/98) was not in the Special Report, but was in Coulter’s book.
  • The Special Report first appeared as a special supplement in the 5/23/97 issue of Human Events. Michael Chapman was the sole byline, with no reference to “Human Events editors.”
  • The booklet version of the special report (“A Case for Impeachment?”) also has a sole byline for Chapman. Of its approximately 50 pages, Coulter provided short sections subtitled “The Law” on pages 10, 15, 23, 27, 31, 34, 38 and 43 (a total of 24 paragraphs out of 50 pages). The remainder of the material was not Coulter’s. The plagiarized portions were not part of her paragraphs.

Coulter’s editor and publisher do not confirm that Coulter had “no assistance whatsoever.” Coulter had the benefit of the writing, research and analysis of both Michael Chapman and David Wagner. (The Globe published the feature but rewarded Coulter with a coveted seat at their table at the next White House Correspondents’ Dinner.)

Alfred Regnery, President of Regnery Publishing, explained the genesis of Coulter’s first book. “We originally came up with it in our office. Part of it was published in Human Events originally. Ann Coulter then got involved in it. She wrote the book. It didn’t take more than six months probably from the time she got involved till we had book. The book’s first printing went out in large quantities. Subsequent printings. New York Times best seller. Lots of promotion. It was a big book.”[11] He confirmed that the concept arose before Coulter became involved.

January, 2002 – Book Publication

Regnery published High Crimes in paperback, again without acknowledging Michael Chapman’s contribution.

Current Status

Coulter lied and threatened lawsuits to conceal the personally humiliating fact that her career-making first (and perhaps best) best-selling book plagiarized the work of a colleague. Neither Coulter nor Regnery will publicly acknowledge Chapman’s contribution to High Crimes, nor have they even offered Chapman a private apology for their “editorial oversight” in failing to give credit where credit is due.

[The media resurrected Coulter’s plagiarism in High Crimes when it was discovered that she also plagiarized in Godless (2006). This column does not delve into that already well-documented instance of plagiarism. The point has already been made: Coulter is a confirmed plagiarist!.– DB]

See Propaganda: Orwell in the Age of Ann Coulter for additional material. It is available as a free PDF download at http://www.coulterwatch.com/propaganda.pdf.

Endnotes:

[1]       Ann Coulter, Washington Journal, C-Span, 6/8/98.

[2]       Author interview.

[3]       Hardball, CNBC, 5/1/03.

[4]       Author interview.

[5]       Ann Coulter, Washington Journal, C-Span, 6/8/98.

[6]       Raoul Berger, Impeachment: The Constitutional Problems, 1973.

[7]       Staff report, House Committee on the Judiciary, 93rd Congress, “Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment,” 2/22/74.

[8]       Alex Beam, Boston Globe, 10/18/01.

[9]       Email provided to me by Richard E. Signoreli.

[10]     Ibid.

[11]     Author interview.

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