Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), facing accusations that he plagiarized Wikipedia entries in two speeches, claims critics are “making a mountain out of a molehill,” and that he credited the proper sources.
While campaigning for Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, earlier this week, Paul warned Liberty University students about the dangers of genetic testing.
“In your lifetime, much of your potential, or lack thereof, can be known simply by swabbing the inside of your cheek. Are we prepared to select out the imperfect among us?” said Paul, a tea party favorite and possible candidate in the 2016 presidential race.
But his reference to the 1997 sci-fi film “Gattaca,” which takes place in a future society where genetic testing has been taken to the extreme, has landed him in hot water.
Take a look at Paul’s speech, and the film’s Wikipedia entry, word-for-word:
“In the movie Gattaca, in the not too distant future, eugenics is common. And DNA plays a primary role in determining your social class,” Paul said.
“In ‘the not-too-distant future,’ eugenics is common and DNA plays the primary role in determining social class,” Wikipedia says.
“Due to frequent screenings, Vincent faces genetic discrimination and prejudice. The only way to achieve his dream of being an astronaut is he has to become what’s called a borrowed ladder,” Paul continued.
“Due to frequent screening, Vincent faces genetic discrimination and prejudice. The only way he can achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut is to become a ‘borrowed ladder,’” the Wikipedia entry says.
Paul, breaking his silence in an interview with Fusion, admitted that he “borrowed the plot lines from Gattaca,” but said proper credit was given to the film’s creators, and claimed much of the controversy stems from a difference in footnoting academic research and public speeches.
“The rest of it’s making a mountain out of a molehill from people I think basically are political enemies and have an axe to grind,” Paul said.
Those “political enemies” start with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who was the first to accuse Paul of plagiarism during a segment on her show Monday.
Then Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski dug up a Paul speech from June 2013 that similarly hews closely to the Wikipedia entry for the film “Stand and Deliver.” And Politico found instances of Paul using language similar to an Associated Press report and a report from CitizenLink, a social conservative magazine.
Paul’s office responded, claiming that “only in Washington is something this trivial a source for liberal media angst," though his they did promise to use more caution in the future.
Paul pointedly dismissed the reports as “attacks coming from haters,” singling out Maddow in particular.
“The person who’s leading this attack, she’s been spreading hate on me for about three years now and I don’t intend for it to go away, but also don’t see her as an objective news source,” Paul said.
Wikipedia has notably loose copyright standards, based in the organization’s goal to spread its content “effectively and globally, free of charge.” And entry text is licensed under creative commons, granting individuals the right to share and remix work so long as there’s proper attribution.
Paul says that attribution has been given, since he credited the film, but given the stark similarities between his remarks and the entries themselves, he may have been better off saying, “In the movie Gattaca, according to the Wikipedia entry originally created by editor ‘The Anome’ in 2002 and edited throughout the years…”