SACRAMENTO — An online magazine opinion piece attributed to California’s lieutenant governor contains at least one paragraph that largely initially appeared elsewhere, while several of the Democratic politician’s Twitter and Facebook posts from the last month lack citations to their original sources.
In an article criticizing Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence for his record on lesbian and gay issues, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote about Pence’s support for conversion therapy — a discredited practice intended to “retrain” gay people.
One paragraph contains sentences nearly identical to those on the website of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, but it is not attributed as such.
Kate Kendell, executive director of NCLR, said she knew Newsom was writing the piece and sent material to his team, likely including that specific link, which she encouraged them to use.
“If somebody’s suggesting that’s plagiarism, that’s hilarious,” she said. “It’s open-source material that anybody who googles ‘conversion therapy methods’ would get this paragraph of methods that are used.”
Several other posts on Newsom’s Twitter and Facebook feeds about Pence also appear to have originally appeared elsewhere and are not attributed to their sources: Mother Jones, Vox and New York Magazine, which posted a story called “The 5 Worst Decisions Mike Pence Has Made About Women’s Health.”
The passage, minus the introduction, appeared word-for-word in shaded quote boxes on Newsom’s Facebook page, including the numerical listing, and in separate posts on his Twitter feed, without attribution noting the material originally came from New York Magazine.
Newsom, a candidate for governor in 2018, is a prolific social media user who often posts updates several times a day. His political spokesman, Jason Kinney, said Newsom is “generous with personal credit, retweets and shares according to the brave new standards of online posting.”
“Given his thousands of recent posts, it’s not surprising to have citation ambiguity on a fraction of them but they were clearly formatted in common online practice to appear as material from another source,” Kinney said in a statement. “After all, Gavin’s online mission is to promote and celebrate diverse voices, not diminish them — and he bends over backwards wherever practical to highlight their ideas and identities.”
The revelations come just days after Newsom, a candidate for governor in 2018, changed a post on Twitter to give credit to Air Force Col. Tom Moe after the Sacramento Bee questioned the source of the passage, which was nearly identical to one authored by Moe last year.
“Good catch,” Newsom responded on Twitter.
Kinney said that perhaps attribution standards are shifting.
“He understands in the post-Melania world that he needs to be even more hypersensitive about credit so, going forward, he’ll be applying even stricter citation standards to links, shares and retweets.”
Melania Trump, the wife of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, came under intense scrutiny last week after it was revealed that parts of her GOP convention speech were copied from a speech given by first lady Michelle Obama after her husband won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.