Walsh Plagiarism Scandal Won't Be Easy to Leave Behind

Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) is not going to be able to leave behind the scandal regarding allegations he plagiarized parts of his U.S. Army War College master’s thesis when the Senate goes on its August recess.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee didn’t hold back on its efforts to keep the story alive, sending out an email blast on the topic July 25 titled “Cheaters never win.”

Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon opened his monologue July 24 with a comment on the scandal, ending with the line, “You’re only hurting yourself, mister.”

And Army War College officials announced July 24, after examining Wash’s paper, that the college’s Academic Review Board would conduct an investigation.

The New York Times broke the story July 23 showing large sections of the strategy research paper written by Walsh in 2007 had been lifted from other sources, word-for-word, without attribution.

Walsh told reporters in Washington, D.C., that he had not done anything wrong, or if he had it was unintentional. Later the day the story became public, Walsh told the Associated Press that if he had plagiarized anyone’s work, it might have been the result of post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in Iraq and the medication he was taking to treat PTSD.

The Army War College released a statement explaining that the Academic Review Board is “the deliberate process used for all cases of suspected plagiarism or misconduct for a neutral, independent review of the case.”

Faculty members will review the evidence in the Walsh case and then make a recommendation to the Army War College.

The statement also stressed the review process is “administrative and not judicial.” The strictest punishment is getting kicked out of the college, bureaucratically known as being “disenrolled.”

This is not the first time the Army War College has been faced with a situation like this, but it is rare. Only eight other students have been punished since 1990 by having the Army War College revoke their graduation status, after graduation. Six of those cases were for plagiarism and two for misconduct, according to the War College.

There is more to the punishment that just being disenrolled. “If the plaque bearing graduates' names has already been hung in front of the college, they have their name removed from the metal plate,” according to the War College statement.

“Then and now, we trust our students to uphold high standards of academic integrity unless there is reason to believe otherwise.”

Walsh didn’t need this.

It came as Walsh, who was appointed to the Senate in February to fill out the term of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), was closing the gap in his campaign for another term against Republican Rep. Steve Daines. Down by as much as 18 points earlier, Walsh had pulled to a seven-point margin in a Public Policy Polling survey of likely Montana voters released July 21.

It is not just the prospect of polling numbers cascading down that has to be worrying the Walsh campaign. It has not been keeping pace with the Daines camp in terms of fundraising.