Jill Abramson says she made ‘errors’ but didn’t plagiarize in book

Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson on Sunday acknowledged errors in the footnotes of her new book, but insisted that passages that mirror other works word-for-word without attribution do not amount to plagiarism. 

"I would never purposely take credit for the work of another journalist or writer," Abramson said on CNN's "Reliable Sources," arguing that the sources for her book, "Merchants of Truth," are cited in trailing footnotes at the very end of the work.

"There are a few that dropped out," she said. "And I feel terrible about that."


"Reliable Sources" anchor Brian Stelter asserted that footnotes are not adequate when quoting another work word-for-word as Abramson appears to have done in her book.

"Well, that’s your position," she said. "I don’t see it that way."

Stelter noted that those parts of Abramson's book would meet the definition for plagiarism at the Times and at Harvard University, where she teaches.

"I’m saying that I made some errors in the way I credited sources, but that there was no attempt to pass off someone's ideas, opinions, and phrasings as my own," Abramson said. "These were all factual passages that unfortunately did not match up exactly to the right footnotes, but are credited in the footnotes elsewhere."

Abramson came under scrutiny last week after two individuals raised allegations that she had lifted material for her book, which assesses the state of the news industry.

Vice News correspondent Michael Moynihan posted a series of tweets on Wednesday that noted six examples in which Abramson's book appeared to lift material from articles in The New Yorker and the Columbia Journalism Review and a piece in Time Out magazine.

Writer Ian Frisch separately accused the former New York Times editor of taking passages from some of his work. He noted that he was credited in the footnotes of Abramson's book, but suggested that Abramson did not provide an indication of how extensively she used his work.

Abramson was initially dismissive of the allegations.

"I certainly didn’t plagiarize in my book and there’s 70 pages of footnotes showing where I got the information," she told Fox News.

In a series of tweets issued later that night, she pinned the criticism of her book on some Vice News employees' "unhappiness" with her portrayal of the outlet, but pledged to "review the passages in question."