Leftists and their corporate media allies are blaming conservatives for the ouster of former Harvard president and apparent plagiarist Claudine Gay, who formally resigned from her job Tuesday after being accused of nearly 50 instances of plagiarism.
The Associated Press ran an op-ed Wednesday complaining that Gay’s “resignation highlights [a] new conservative weapon against colleges: plagiarism.” The problem, according to AP authors Collin Binkley and Moriah Balingit, isn’t that Gay pirated the work of other educators to climb the academic ladder, but that conservatives “zeroed in” on Gay in a “coordinated campaign.”
Binkley and Balingit go on to cite Trinity College historian Davarian Baldwin, who makes the argument that plagiarism in certain fields of study is somehow not plagiarism. “In highly specialized fields, scholars often use similar language to describe the same concepts,” write Binkley and Balingit, paraphrasing Baldwin. “Gay clearly made mistakes, [Baldwin] said, but with the spread of software designed to detect plagiarism, it wouldn’t be hard to find similar overlap in works by other presidents and professors.”
Citing Baldwin, Binkley and Balingit add that this plagiarism “tool” can become “dangerous” if it “falls into the hands of those who argue that academia in general is a cesspool of incompetence and bad actors.”
It’s not just the AP. Politico ran a similar article about “the right’s coordinated campaign that helped engineer the departure of the head of the most influential university in the world.”
During an MSNBC interview, The New York Times’ Mara Gay claimed the disgraced Harvard president’s downfall is a “attack on academic freedom,” “diversity,” and “multiculturalism.” She added that “you can hear and see the racism” in criticisms of Gay, since “women of color” are easy targets.
New York Magazine journalist Jonathan Chait wrote a piece downplaying Gay’s malpractice as “morally insignificant” and “picayune” instances of “low-level plagiarism,” which weren’t so bad because “she could have fixed them easily.” He characterized her ouster not as a symbol of the decline of higher education, but as “a symbol in the culture wars” and “hand[ing] a victory to the braying mob.” The BBC also ran an article blaming Gay’s departure on the “cultural wars,” but promptly deleted it on X after numerous community notes corrected the record, writing that Gay resigned because of plagiarism.
In his article, Chait placed blame on Christopher Rufo, an education reform activist who has been one of Gay’s greatest critics, claiming Rufo “attacks targets that maintain high ethical standards, which he himself doesn’t care about at all, forcing [institutions] to choose between maintaining their standards and resisting his nakedly political agenda.”
Federalist Senior Editor John Davison responded to Chait by pointing out that, “If Claudine Gay had high ethical standards she wouldn’t have plagiarized, hence there would be nothing for [Chris Rufo] to expose. It’s not a ‘trap,’ it’s sunlight, and the institutional left hates it.”
The left’s backward reaction to Claudine Gay’s resignation is not hard to understand. A foundational concept in Marxist thought is the idea that “the ends justify the means.” Gay’s rise to Harvard’s top post furthered the ends of racial identity politics, so the shortcuts she used to get there are happily excused.
The Claudine Gay scandal does not symbolize conservative-led “culture wars” or racism. It is an example of how leftists reject their self-proclaimed “high ethical standards” the moment those standards are inconvenient for them.