The Associated Press (AP) has been compelled to revise its controversial headline and admit that its story on Harvard President Claudine Gay’s resignation did not meet their journalistic standards.
The original AP headline: “Harvard president’s resignation highlights new conservative weapon against colleges: plagiarism,” was met with significant backlash. Critics accused the AP of framing plagiarism as a tool exclusively wielded by conservatives against academic institutions.
Following the criticism, the Associated Press altered the headline to “Plagiarism charges downed Harvard’s president. A conservative attack helped to fan the outrage.”
“The story doesn’t meet our standards,” Lauren Easton, the VP of AP Corporate Communications, conveyed to Fox News Digital. She mentioned that they were updating the headline.
Gay’s resignation came amid allegations of plagiarism in her doctoral dissertation and journal articles. These accusations were initially brought to light by conservative activists and subsequently confirmed by a Harvard committee, which found multiple instances of “duplicative language” in Gay’s work.
Harvard president's resignation highlights new conservative weapon against colleges: plagiarism https://t.co/GiVkT3LgUo
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 3, 2024
While Harvard did not classify these errors as intentional or reckless, the controversy continued to grow, leading to Gay’s resignation.
— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) January 3, 2024
The original report by the AP was criticized for its suggestion that plagiarism accusations were a conservative strategy rather than a legitimate concern about academic integrity. The narrative seemed to downplay the gravity of plagiarism in academia, a sector that traditionally holds scholarly rigor and originality in high esteem.
Commentators have argued that the AP’s initial framing of the story was indicative of a broader tendency in the media to portray conservative activism in a negative light, especially when it intersects with academic institutions.
The AP article still reads:
The latest target is Harvard President Claudine Gay, who resigned Tuesday. In her case, the outrage came not from her academic peers but her political foes, led by conservatives who put her career under intense scrutiny…
Conservatives zeroed in on Gay amid backlash over her congressional testimony about antisemitism on campus. Her detractors charged that Gay — who has a Ph.D. in government, was a professor at Harvard and Stanford and headed Harvard’s largest division before being promoted — got the top job in large part because she is a Black woman…
The allegations against Gay initially came from conservative activists, some who stayed anonymous. They looked for the kinds of duplicated sentences undergraduate students are trained to avoid, even with citation.
In dozens of instances first published by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, Gay’s work includes long stretches of prose that mirror language from other published works. A review ordered by Harvard acknowledged she duplicated the language without using quotation marks.
Harvard previously said Gay updated her dissertation and requested corrections from journals.
Among her critics in conservative circles and academia, the findings are clear evidence that Gay, as the top academic at the pinnacle of U.S. higher education, is unfit to serve. Her defenders say it isn’t so clear-cut.
Gay wrote in her resignation, “My deep sense of connection to Harvard and its people has made it all the more painful to witness the tensions and divisions that have riven our community in recent months, weakening the bonds of trust and reciprocity that should be our sources of strength and support in times of crisis.”
“Amidst all of this, it has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor—two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am—and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus.”