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Buzzfeed Fires Former Breitbart/Glenn Beck Writer for Serial Plagiarism

Why was this a surprise to anyone?
Media • Views: 21,509

After being exposed as a serial plagiarist, Buzzfeed writer Benny Johnson has been fired; here’s the post by Ben Smith: Editor’s Note: An Apology to Our Readers.

Starting this Wednesday, Twitter users began pointing out instances in which a BuzzFeed writer, Benny Johnson, had lifted phrases and sentences from other websites.

After carefully reviewing more than 500 of Benny’s posts, we have found 41 instances of sentences or phrases copied word for word from other sites. Benny is a friend, colleague, and, at his best, a creative force, but we had no choice other than letting him go.

We owe you, our readers, an apology. This plagiarism is a breach of our fundamental responsibility to be honest with you — in this case, about who wrote the words on our site. Plagiarism, much less copying unchecked facts from Wikipedia or other sources, is an act of disrespect to the reader. We are deeply embarrassed and sorry to have misled you. Benny’s editors — I, Katherine Miller, John Stanton, Shani Hilton, and McKay Coppins — bear real responsibility.

While it’s nice that Ben Smith eventually did the right thing (after defending Johnson for several days, at one point calling him “one of the web’s deeply original writers”), it should be noted that Benny Johnson got his start writing for extreme right wing sites like Glenn Beck’s The Blaze and Breitbart “News,” so I’m not sure why it comes as such a surprise that he’s also an unethical plagiarist.

For example, have a look at this disgustingly bigoted rant about the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” written for Breitbart by Benny Johnson, which starts out by painting all Muslims as terrorists or terror supporters, and then morphs into a crazed attack on President Obama, accusing him of raising “a glass of non-alcoholic beverage in a toast to Islam:” Dear American Taxpayer, You Are Paying for the Ground Zero Mosque.

It’s a really awful post — hateful, shockingly bigoted against Muslims, completely deranged, and badly written to boot. It fits right in at Breitbart “News.” And the real question is, why was someone who writes this kind of evil garbage ever hired by Buzzfeed in the first place?

P.S. Oddly, in the apology for Johnson’s plagiarism, Smith posted links to the 41 posts that contained plagiarized material — but the links aren’t clickable, they’re plain text. So as a service to our readers, here are those links in clickable form:

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