Since 2001, Harding High School graduate Timothy S. Goeglein has been a White House aide, a liaison to conservatives and Christian groups. Since 1985, he has written guest columns for The News-Sentinel, his hometown paper.
Both stints came to an end Friday, after Nancy Nall, a blogger and former News-Sentinel columnist, found Goeglein had plagiarized a column on education published on Thursday's editorial page.
An internal investigation begun Friday has revealed that since 2000, Goeglein plagiarized 20 of 38 columns The News-Sentinel published. A review of his columns prior to 2000 continues. According to Editor & Publisher, an industry publication, Goeglein also was discovered to have plagiarized in writings published by The Washington Post and The New York Sun. He lifted material without proper attribution from sources including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and New York Sun. He even went as far as to use a quote from Pope John Paul II as his own.
“It was extremely disappointing to learn that many of Tim Goeglein's guest columns included plagiarized material,” said News-Sentinel Editor Kerry Hubartt. “Our newspaper's policy has always been that all writers attribute sources of the information they use for publication.”
In multiple e-mails to The New-Sentinel, Goeglein, 44, apologized for his actions. “I am more apologetic that you know, and from my heart. Please know how deeply sorry I am,” he wrote to the paper's Editorial Page Editor Leo Morris.
Nall, reached Friday in Michigan where she now lives, said curiosity prompted her to Google the name of a Dartmouth College professor Goeglein referenced in his column Thursday.
“There was something about that phrase that he dropped. … ‘Eugene Rosenstock-Hussey,'” she said. “There was just something about the way he said it.” And a 30-second Web search turned into a scandal. It wasn't long after on Friday that Nall posted her findings on her blog at nancynall.com.
“I only wanted to mock him,” said Nall, who admitted to criticizing Goeglein over the years. “I didn't want to hurt him.”
Goeglein wrote guest columns for The News-Sentinel, which did not solicit or pay for them, Hubartt said. Calls to Goeglein seeking comment were not returned Friday. White House spokesman Blair Jones said the White House learned of the accusations Friday morning.
“This is not acceptable. We are disappointed in Tim's actions,” he said. Later Friday, in an e-mail sent at 6:34 p.m. by the Office of the Press Secretary, the White House announced Goeglein had submitted his resignation to President Bush.
“The President was disappointed to learn of the matter, and he was saddened for Tim and his family,” the statement read. “He has long appreciated Tim's service, and he knows him to be a good person who is committed to his country.”
Goeglein worked as a special assistant to Bush and public liaison deputy director whose office promotes presidential priorities through outreach to various groups. He was instrumental in establishing the Bush faith-based community initiative and the emergency plan for AIDS relief, according to the statement.
Even as a sophomore at Harding, Goeglein saw his aspirations being realized on WOWO radio's “Mikeside,” a Sunday-evening mix of student-produced newscasts and interviews. At Indiana University Bloomington, he majored in journalism and political science.
Over the years, Goeglein's columns for The News-Sentinel covered a wide range of topics, and in the same respect, he plagiarized from a wide range of sources.
“Plagiarism is the highest form of flattery,” said Jonathan Yardley, a Washington Post book critic who had sections of his “Hoagy Carmichael's Memories, Straight From the Heartland” story lifted for Goeglein's “Hoagy Carmichael's songs reflect his deep roots in Bloomington, Indiana” column.
Yardley can put himself in company with a pope. On April 6, 2005, Roger Cohen wrote in The New York Times: “It was based in the belief that, as he (the pope) once put it, ‘a degradation, indeed a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human being' was at the root of the mass movements of the 20th century, Communism and Fascism,”
In a column published Oct. 18, 2005, Goeglein wrote: “A degradation and pulverization of the fundamental uniqueness of each human being was at the root of the 20th century, the twin evils of communism and fascism.” No attribution is given to the pope or to Cohen in the column.
News-Sentinel Editorial Page Editor Leo Morris said writers of guest columns are given a certain level of trust to ensure the information they supply is correct and not plagiarized.
“You don't have the time or the manpower to check everything that comes in,” he said.
“If you can't trust the faith-based assistant to the president, who can you trust?”