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Historians on the Hot Seat

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2002: Year of the Scandal
Books About History Scandals



Alleged Offense


Stephen AmbroseIndependent scholar, deceasedAccused in 2002 of plagiarizing passages from a dozen books published from 1970s to 1990s; accused of sloppy scholarship. In 2010 it was revealed that Ambrose exaggerated his relationship with President Eisenhower.
Conceded he borrowed passages from others without using quote marks, but usually included footnotes; admitted he sometimes made mistakes and promised to correct them, though his critics claimed he rarely did.

Herbert Aptheker Accused by his daughter Bettina, a historian, of having sexually abused her as a child. The charge was made in a memoir published several years after his death.
Michael BellesilesEmory University Accused in Feb. 2002 of fraudulently manipulating data and facts related to guns in his 2001 book Arming America.
Resigned Nov. 20, 2002 from Emory following the release of a report that found him guilty of misrepresenting data and unprofessional conduct.
In Dec. 2002 Columbia University rescinded the Bancroft Prize for the book.

Richard Berthold

University of New Mexico
On Sept. 11, 2001 told a class: "Anybody who blows up the Pentagon gets my vote."

Reprimanded by the administration in 2002. Took early retirement after fall 2002 because of harassment from his department. .

Conrad Black

Independent Scholar Defrauded his company in 2000, 2002.Indicted in Nov. 2005
Paul BuhleBrown University
Accused in June 2002 of manufacturing evidence in the Encyclopedia of the American Left.

Declines to answer critics on accusation.

Dino Cinel

CUNYAccused in 1991 of sexual abuse and pornography.Defrocked and Fired.

Donald Cuccioletta

Universite du Quebec & State University of New York at Plattsburgh Accused of plagiarism in 2002, the article that was plagiarized was published in 2001.
Universite du Quebec refused to allow him to continue as a part-time lecturer.
Removed as interim director of Plattsburgh's new Institute on Quebec Studies

Philip Foner

Deceased; author of more than forty books on the history of American labor.
On May 23, 2003 Melvyn Dubofsky accused Foner of plagiarizing his dissertation and other unpublished dissertations on the H-Net discussion network.


Nicholas De Genova

Columbia University

At a teach-in at Columbia University in March 2003 told 3,000 students and faculty members that he hoped Iraq would defeat the United States. He also wished for"a million Mogadishus."

Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., urged his U.S. House colleagues to demand De Genova's removal. There have been many calls for his removal, but he still is teaching at Columbia.

Joseph Ellis

Mount Holyoke College
In a 2000 interview with the Boston Globe, Ellis claimed to have served in Vietnam and been involved with the civil rights movement, a story that he told frequently to his classes but were in fact fabricated.

Suspended from Mount Holyoke without pay for a year.

Orlando Figes

Birkbeck College, University of London

Accused in 2010 of writing anonymous critical reviews of colleagues' books on Amazon.

Claimed that his wife was the author of the reviews, but said that he was unaware of her actions. Later admitted that he was the author of the reviews.

David Garrow

Emory University

Gloria Mann, the Law School's director of operations, accused Garrow of battery in September 2002.

Suspended from Emory for 6 months starting from October 15, 2002.
Doris Kearns GoodwinIndependent scholar; Harvard University overseer
In January 2002 Goodwin was accused of plagiarism in The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, she also"lied about whether it was plagiarism (and, incidentally, paid hush money to one of the people she plagiarized)."

Admitted copying passages, but insisted it was unintentional; dropped by PBS'"The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" as media historian; Goodwin was"pulled out of the Pulitzer panel";"her membership on various boards questioned, her speaking invitations withdrawn"; remained as NBC media historian.

Leonard F. Guttridge 
Accused in January 2004 of co-authoring a history of the Lincoln assassination that allegedly relies on phony documents.

Guttridge"wrote a lengthy piece taking his critics to task for their unwillingness to countenance a fresh thesis that undermines the"perpetuated story of the Lincoln murder case.""
KC JohnsonBrooklyn CollegeAccused in November 2002 by Brooklyn College president Christoph M. Kimmich of "uncollegiality"; denied tenure.
After a student protest and a petition signed by 23 prominent historians, Mr. Johnson was given a one-year extension on his contract. Subsequently, the board of trustees decided to award him tenure over the objections of the chairman of the history department.

Peter KirsteinSaint Xavier UniversityReplied to a cadet's October 2002 letter with an email condemning the Air Force Academy's"aggressive baby killing tactics of collateral damage."
Suspended in November 2002 from teaching and officially reprimanded.
In Sepember 2003, as a result of the Kirstein controversy, the local chapter of AAUP affiliated with St. Xavier University issued stringent new guidelines to protect faculty speech.

Stanley I. Kutler University of Wisconsin Accused in the NYT of deliberately publishing flawed Watergate tape transcripts in his book, Abuse of Power. A subsequent investigation by the NYT ombudsman concluded that the Times blew the story "out of proportion." Kutler admitted the transcripts may be flawed. He disputed that the flaws were deliberate. There was no evidence that they were.
Ann LaneUniversity of Virginia In 1971 her dissertation was discovered to include borrowed passages after she received her degree; Lane borrowed thousands of words from other scholars in her dissertation; most prominently journal articles by Seth Scheiner and Emma Lou Thornbrough.
Her quest for tenure at Rutgers University where she was teaching at the time, was derailed. HNN published a story about her case in 2002.

Bryan Le BeauUniversity of Missouri, Kansas City
"Le Beau's Commencement Address at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, in December 2003 substantially plagiarized from Cornel West's Commencement Address at Wesleyan University on 30 May 1993.

"Le Beau acknowledges the similarities between the two texts, but denies ever having seen a copy of West's speech. He rightly claims that the standards for public speech are not the same as in scholarly research."
David McCulloughIndependent scholar; PBS

(1) Accused in July 2001 of misattributing a quote to Thomas Jefferson about John Adams, where Jefferson calls Adams"a colossus of independence."
(2) Accused in 2003 of failing to correctly attribute a memo he misquoted, and failing to properly list army casualty numbers relating to Hiroshima in his Truman book.

(1) Acknowledged his error and corrected his text.
(2) Admited he misread a document;"it has never been corrected in Truman, which is still available in bookstores"; the inaccuracies are widely quoted as fact, because it has never been corrected.
Jacques PlussFairleigh Dickinson

Dismissed from the university following several unexplained absences. At the same time it was revealed that he claimed to be a Neo-Nazi.

After his dismissal Pluss said he was giving up academia to help advance the cause of the White Aryan Race. In January 2006, 10 months after his dismissal, Pluss explained in an article on HNN that he had orchestrated his own firing. He explained that he is not a Neo-Nazi. He pretended to be one in order to infiltrate the National Socialist Movement in connection with research for a book. In 2007, HNN reported that Pluss subsequently admitted he was a Nazi.
S. Walter PoulshockRutgers University

Accused in 1966 of fabricating hundreds of quotations and statements, including correspondence, in the text and footnotes of his dissertation (1962) and later his book; The Two Parties and the Tariff in the 1880s (1965).

Poulshock admitted the sources were fabricated but, the thesis was correct.
He resigned from Rutgers University.
The University of Pennsylvania did not rescind his 1962 doctorate.
Syracuse University Press sent urgent notices to return book copies immediately.

Louis RobertsSUNY, Albany
Accused in December 2000 of plagiarizing"more than 50 pages (even footnotes are taken verbatim) from two old sources."

Stepped down in February 2002 from his position as chairman of the classics department at SUNY, Albany.

R. Fred RuhlmanUniversity of Tennessee at ChattanoogaAccused in 2006 of plagiarizing passages from a historian's book about Andersonville. Ruhlman received his Ph.D. from a distance-learning school in England and was named an adjunct at UT. University of Tennessee Press withdraws Ruhlman's book.
Marc Susser State Department Office of the Historian Accused of mismanaging the Office, putting in jeopardy the future publication of FRUS series As of March 2009 Susser remains in charge of the Office.
Don Heinrich TolzmannUniversity of CincinnatiAccused in 2003 of plagiarizing much of the first half of a book by Theodore Huebener, The Germans in AmericaFound guilty of plagiarism by an internal investigating committee in summer 2006. Tolzmann vowed to resist calls for his removal.
Benson TongGallaudet University
In 2002 Judy Tzu-Chun Wu accused Tong of plagiarizing her dissertation in a chapter he wrote on Margaret Chung. Tong condensed the dissertation and copied many passages verbatim.

AHA investigation concluded he was guilty, but the results were not publicized to the academic community; he left his job at Wichita State University in 2003, a year after his bid for tenure was turned down, he then got a job at Gallaudet, where his plagiarism was unknown.

Brian VanDeMarkUnited States Naval Academy
Accused of plagiarism on May 31, 2003 by NYT." According to the Times more than 30 passages in VanDeMark's new book, Pandora's Keepers (Little Brown), are "identical, or nearly identical" to those found in four other books written by Richard Rhodes, William Lanouette, Greg Herken, and Robert Norris."

On June 3, 2003 Little, Brown withdrew VanDeMark's book. He lost tenure, his pay was cut, he was reduced in rank from Associate Professor to entry-level Assistant Professor, and was put on probation for three after which he could reapply for tenure.

In April 2013 Mr. VanDeMark asked that we take down this page, noting that an article by Yale University historian Daniel Kevles in theNew York Review of Books exonerated him in 2003 from the charge of plagiarism.  In the article, VanDeMark noted, that Kevles wrote that " 'something like half' of the allegations were reasonable paraphrases and the remaining ones were 'not important.' " We agreed to draw attention to Kevles's piece.
Matthew Moten West Point Accused of sexually harrassing women in his chain of command. Reprimanded and removed.
Hugo Schwyzer Pasadena City College Accused by a former student of having sex with her in his office while she was an enrolled student. Schwyzer, who taught a class on porn, admitted to sexual relations with the student and said he suffers from multiple addictions.
Matthew Whitaker Arizona State University Accused for a second time of plagiarism Cleared after the first accusation.