Fareed Zakaria has long been one of my favorite public intellectuals, a man whose vision always seems so clear and sensible. The way Zakaria handles his guests on his Sunday morning CNN talk show, The Global Public Square, is always even-handed, even when the discussions get heated. In general, Fareed Zakaria’s sophisticated cosmopolitan manner stands out sharply from that of the typical American media commentator. A true global citizen, he has excellent connections to major newsmakers all over the world. Indeed, I suggested on this site years ago that Fareed Zakaria would be a superb Secretary of State in a Democrat administration. And in a college textbook I have written (Public Speaking: The Evolving Art), a photo and quotation from a commencement address given by Fareed opens a chapter on “speaking for special occasions.”
So it was terribly difficult to learn that he blatantly plagiarized an article from The New Yorker in his own essay on gun control in Time and on his CNN column, an ethical breach that caused the media outlets (owned by Time Warner), to suspend him. It was also hard to believe that he thought he could have gotten away with copying material almost directly from such a high-circulation publication. Perhaps it was the incredible time demands on him (not only does he work tirelessly for Time Warner, his travels and other outside commitments are numerous). But as everyone knows, if you cite the ideas or the words of someone else, you must acknowledge that fact.
The scandal couldn’t have come at a worse time for CNN, whose ratings have reached the lowest point in the famed news network’s history. But the real tragedy is the damage the incident has caused this vital observer of global and domestic affairs. Fareed’s “take” on what’s going on in the world is a tremendous resource for progressive thinkers.
After examining all of Fareed Zakaria’s essays and broadcasts for other instances of plagiarism, and surely motivated for economic reasons, Time Warner decided to reinstate Fareed Zakaria at Time and CNN. Still, his seemingly impeccable credibility has been diminished by the affair. That’s a loss for all of us.
And you can quote me.