Celebrated Indian American journalist Fareed Zakaria paid the price for what he himself called “a terrible mistake” and “a serious lapse” as Time magazine and CNN suspended him for plagiarism.
Mumbai-born Zakaria, 48, who became editor-at-large of Time in 2010 and hosted CNN’s flagship foreign affairs show GPS, was suspended by the two media, both owned by Time Warner, after he apologized for plagiarizing sections of his column on gun control in the Aug 20 issue of Time.
While Time’s suspension of Zakaria was for a month “pending further review”, CNN put no time limit on its removal of its celebrated host from its airwaves.
Zakaria, who was a columnist for Newsweek and editor of Newsweek International from 2000 to 2010, was even talked about as a potential secretary of state, with Esquire Magazine calling him “the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation,” as his website proudly proclaims.
But the reaction to the fall of the celebrated journalist, who was honored by India with the Padma Bhushan for his contribution towards journalism in 2010, was swift. Noted TV critic and author David Zurawik said, “Plagiarism used to be a deadly journalistic sin from which there often was no redemption.”
Zakaria’s suspension came as bloggers spotted similarities in some passages in his Time column, “The Case for Gun Control”, to those in a longer article on guns in America by the historian Jill Lepore, which appeared in the April 23 issue of The New Yorker.
Starting with the conservative website NewsBusters, the story quickly spread across the internet after appearing on the media blog www.JimRomenesko.com.
Zakaria responded with an apology, saying: “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 23 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,” he admitted.
Time said it was suspending Zakaria’s column for a month, pending review. “Time accepts Fareed’s apology, but what he did violates our own standards for our columnists, which is that their work must not only be factual but original; their views must not only be their own but their words as well,” said Ali Zelenko, a spokesperson for the magazine.
CNN followed suit, saying: “We have reviewed Fareed Zakaria’s Time column, for which he has apologized. He wrote a shorter blog post on CNN.com on the same issue which included similar unattributed excerpts. That blog post has been removed and CNN has suspended Fareed Zakaria while this matter is under review.”
Earlier this year, Yale and Harvard educated Zakaria was criticized for giving a commencement speech at Harvard that was very similar to the one he had earlier given at Duke.