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Lynne McTaggart on Doris Kearns Goodwin

The author Doris Kearns Goodwin copied speaks out.

4:14 PM, Jan 23, 2002 • By BO CRADER
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AS DETAILED in the current issue of The Weekly Standard, Doris Kearns Goodwin's 1987 book "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys," used a number of phrases and sentences without quotation marks that had been drawn from three earlier works: Rose Kennedy's "Time to Remember," Hank Searls's "The Lost Prince," and Lynne McTaggart's "Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times."

Since that article first appeared on January 18, the Boston Globe's Thomas Palmer, the New York Times's David Kirkpatrick, and the Associated Press have followed up with reports that Goodwin and McTaggart reached a "private settlement" to acknowledge the borrowed material in Goodwin's book. The result, as we had previously reported, was a substantial number of new endnotes in the paperback edition of Goodwin's book, a paragraph in the preface declaring McTaggart's work to be the "definitive" biography of Kathleen Kennedy, and an undisclosed monetary settlement.

McTaggart, who previously felt herself bound by the settlement not to comment, has now changed her mind. "There are issues" in the subsequent stories "that were not correct," she says, and that "I'd be happy to clarify."

"The Boston Globe suggests there were only two or three paragraphs" copied from her book, McTaggart says. "But there were dozens and dozens of individual phrases and unusual turns of phrase taken virtually verbatim, or paragraphs where a few words had been changed." She's right. Her claim is easily confirmed by reading the sections of the McTaggart book that are footnoted in Goodwin's work.

Goodwin further told the Globe that "all that really happened was she sent me a letter saying not all the passages that relied on her work had been as fully footnoted as she would have liked." Yet McTaggart says the settlement was not reached voluntarily. "I read her book and was shocked because there were many similarities. I contacted my publisher, combed the manuscripts side by side, and my lawyers contacted her at my behest with threat of a suit" for "serious copyright infringement" and "papers ready to be filed in court." The settlement, according to McTaggart, was reached in "1988 or 1989."

Although McTaggart is unwilling to disclose the amount of the settlement, she says it "was a substantial monetary settlement, many times more than what is usually the case for this kind of thing, according to my lawyer. It wasn't a token sum."

In addition to the monetary settlement, McTaggart says, the lawyers for the two parties "hammered out" an agreement that Goodwin "must do a footnote to anything that had come from my book, and that there would be an acknowledgement in the book, . . . a broad thank you that the material came from me," and "an acknowledgement that this had happened, an indication that this material had come from me."

McTaggart agrees that "it would have been best" if Goodwin had enclosed McTaggart's words in quotation marks. "But we felt that would be almost impossible without a substantial rewriting. . . . I never asked for quotations [because] I felt it would be impossible because of the sheer number of them. It would have taken hours and hours of determining what was an exact quote, almost an exact quote, and what was a close paraphrase. . . . So we said it was enough to attribute everything that came from my book."

"I was satisfied by the settlement," she says. "I felt vindicated. [Goodwin] was appropriately chastised, and I told nobody. . . . I don't feel bitter about it."

Nonetheless, says McTaggart, "There is a moral issue in general that needs to be examined. The only reason I'm talking now is just to set the record straight. At least let's have the full story." As she correctly notes, Goodwin used far more of McTaggart's prose than the "three passages" referred to in the Globe story.

Goodwin told the Globe, "Obviously I didn't take any of her ideas." Wrong, says McTaggart: "The issue is not ideas, it is the words. We have copyright laws for this. . . . [The issue] was not whether one had lifted ideas but whether one had lifted words. . . . My lawyers felt there was a substantial infringement of copyright."

McTaggart has no regrets over her pursuit of a private settlement of the issue. "I respected the fact that [Goodwin] had a reputation to protect," she says. "I don't want to destroy her reputation or have her book considered worthless. She's made an important contribution, and it,s a shame that she allowed this to happen, because she had something so special with her access to the Kennedy material. . . . It's mystifying to me" why she did it.

Bo Crader is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.

EXTRA: Joe McGinniss, the author Doris Kearns Goodwin accused of copying her work, has also spoken out.