Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Beacon No. 99: A Reply from State


Karen Hughes' office has commented on yesterday's post, in which I noted some remarkable similarities between a talk she gave on October 19 and the work of Khaled Abou El Fadl. The following came in an e-mail from Rainy Young at State's Office of Regional Media Outreach:

The transcript shows that Undersecretary Hughes began by pointing out the story had been told to her, clearly alluding to other authorship at the outset. The context was informal and anecdotal and had she known the authorship would have been happy to have attributed it.

The story had been told to her—by someone who spoke in the exact words of the actual author on at least four separate occasions? And Ms. Hughes managed to transcribe these four passages practically verbatim?

Nothing an officer of the U.S. government does in public, particularly in front of her employees, at a State Department dinner, on the eighth floor of the State Department, is informal. And someone—Ms. Hughes or her speechwriter—knew her words came from someone else. The undersecretary had a responsibility to impart that information to her listeners.

Think of how much more effective Ms. Hughes’ talk would have been had she said, “I was just reading the work of Khaled Abou El Fadl, the UCLA law professor whose scholarship on Muslim jurisprudence is respected worldwide. He tells a story from the time of the prophet about a famous man who expressed a desire to seek knowledge ...” and continued as before.

This approach would have shown her as someone who does her homework and gives credit where it is due. It would have been more effective than the speech she actually did give.

Instead, the undersecretary tried to sound breezily familiar with figures from the time of the Prophet in order to compliment her absent supervisor.

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