MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan has now been accused of overtly plagiarizing large chunks of an old column he wrote that was in favor of parents spanking their children. The latest revelations come after investigative reporter Lee Fang decided to dig deeper into Hasan’s early journalistic career after the two had an online dispute over Matt Taibbi’s "Twitter Files."
The news came after Hasan had drawn attention to three errors that Taibbi made, including misidentifying the Center for Internet Security with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Taibbi resolved the error, tweeting that he had just had a contentious debate with Hasan, “who made me aware of three errors in the #TwitterFiles, which as a responsible journalist - unlike MSNBC, which has not corrected years of huge mistakes…”
As a result, Fang published a lengthy report on his Substack Tuesday that accused Hasan of “passing off others’ reporting as his own,” drawing attention to strange commonalities between a piece Hasan wrote in 2000 for the Independent and a US News and World Report article entitled “When to Spank,” per Fox News.
In comparing Hasan’s 2000 piece, “No Harm In Spanking,” with the US News and World Report article, Fang discovered that there were passages that were copied, almost word-for-word. There was one point in Hasan’s article when he argued that “anti-smacking crusaders have consistently relied upon inconclusive studies to make sweeping over-generalizations about the dangers of smacking.”
Apart from a few words here and there, the content of the passage was virtually synonymous with the US News and World Report piece, written by Lynn Rosellini and Anna Mulrine in 1998. Their piece read: "Antispanking crusaders relied on inconclusive studies to make sweeping overgeneralizations about spanking’s dangers."
But Hasan’s plagiarism was not limited to just a sentence or two. He appears to have copied whole paragraphs, including citing evidence from Sweden’s 1979 ban on child spanking that was originally reported by the US News and World Report. Hasan did not attribute any of the information to the original outlet or researchers.
Compare the following.
US News and World Report:
"But no study demonstrates that spanking a child leads to abuse--indeed, it may be the other way around. Parents who end up abusing their children may misuse all forms of discipline, including spanking. Sweden, often cited as a test case, hasn't borne out the spanking prohibitionists' fears, either. After Sweden outlawed spanking by parents in 1979, reports of serious child abuse actually increased by more than 400 percent over 10 years, though the actual number of reports--583 cases in 1994--was still quite small. Sweden's experience does not prove that banning spanking creates more child abuse, but it does suggest that outlawing the practice may do little to lower the rate of child abuse."
Now compare this paragraph to the Hasan apparently wrote:
"No study demonstrates that spanking a child leads to abuse - indeed, it may be the other way around. Parents who end up abusing their children may misuse all forms of discipline, including spanking. Contrary to Mr Saunders' assertions, Sweden hasn't borne out the spanking prohibitionists' fears, either. After Sweden outlawed spanking by parents in 1979, reports of serious child abuse actually increased by more than 400 per cent over 10 years, although the actual number of reports - 583 cases in 1994 - was still quite small. Sweden's experience does not prove that banning spanking creates more child abuse, but it does suggest that outlawing the practice may do little to lower the rate of child abuse and instead deprive parents of an effective and common disciplining procedure."
There was another instance that Fang reported on, which included Hasan seeming to copy another paragraph, even using a direct quote from the US News and World Report, without providing any attribution at all.
The US News and World Report:
"This week, even the American Academy of Pediatrics is expected to tone down its blanket injunction against spanking, though it still takes a dim view of the practice and encourages parents to develop discipline alternatives. An AAP conference on corporal punishment in 1996 concluded that in certain circumstances, spanking may be an effective backup to other forms of discipline. ‘There's no evidence that a child who is spanked moderately is going to grow up to be a criminal or antisocial or violent,’ says S. Kenneth Schonberg, a pediatrics professor who co-chaired the conference. In fact, the reverse may be true: A few studies suggest that when used appropriately, spanking makes small children less likely to fight with others and more likely to obey their parents."
Compare with Hasan’s words:
"In 1998, even the American Academy of Pediatrics toned down its blanket injunction against smacking, though it still takes a dim view of the practice. In fact, an AAP conference on corporal punishment in 1996 concluded that, in certain circumstances, smacking, or ‘spanking’, may be an effective backup to other forms of discipline. 'There's no evidence that a child who is spanked moderately is going to grow up to be a criminal or antisocial or violent,' said S Kenneth Schonberg, a pediatrics professor co-chairing the meeting. In fact, the reverse may be true: a few studies suggest that, when used appropriately, spanking makes small children less likely to fight with others and more likely to obey their parents."
Fang concluded that Hasan’s Independent article was a “clear violation of the simple ethics code outlined by the Society for Professional Journalists,” and the protocol for journalistic standards, per Fox News.
Taibbi and Hasan had a heated back-and-forth interview last week, where Hasan called into question Taibbi’s journalistic credibility in exposing Twitter’s internal communications, including the recent revelation that US government personnel had access to personal messages on the social media platform - an element of the site that is supposed to remain private between users.
Hasan also accused Taibbi of lying when he was under oath while testifying in front of Congress about the Twitter Files. However, Fang came to Taibbi’s defense, suggesting that Hasan’s allegations were “wildly off the mark,” according to Fox News.
Fang took to his Substack column on Tuesday, writing: “The cable news talker from the UK has built a career off such tactics, entertaining crowds with his attempts to mock opponents and turn every complicated policy and political issue into a petty slugfest of insults and partisanship.”
“It’s worth reflecting on Hasan’s rise and how his attacks on the journalists who published the Twitter Files are shaped by an intellectually lazy form of journalism.”
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