A Sunday letter to the editor in The Gazette titled “Why I hate Barack and Michelle Obama” — submitted by the Yellowstone County treasurer, assessor and county superintendent of schools — is a work of plagiarism, according to a syndicated conservative pundit who says his words were stolen.
After the letter’s publication, a reporter and a few readers noticed that the piece submitted by Max Lenington — sent using his government email address — was similar to a syndicated editorial, “Why I Do Not Like the Obamas,” by conservative writer Mychal Massie.
“I do view this as plagiarism. This is totally unacceptable,” Massie said Sunday. “I don’t care if he is Republican, I don’t care if he is as conservative as the day is long. … It’s clear that it’s my piece. What he did is dishonest.”
Three phone calls were made to Lenington at home Sunday, and a reporter stopped by his home, but Lenington did not respond to messages or answer the door.
In the letter, Lenington appears to have essentially condensed Massie’s editorial from about 1,000 words to 300 words. It also seems that he restructured sentences written by Massie and interchanged certain words with others that have similar definitions.
Massie wrote in his editorial, “I don’t like them (the Obamas) because they are committed to the fundamental change of my/our country into what can only be regarded as a Communist state. I don’t hate them per definition, but I condemn them because they are the worst kind of racialists, they are elitist Leninists with contempt for traditional America.”
Lenington’s letter read: “I don’t like them because they are attempting to fundamentally change my country into what only can be called Communist or Socialist. They are the very worst kind of racialist and they are elitist Leninists who hold contempt for my very traditional America.”
Unlike Massie, Lenington clearly stated his hatred for the president and his wife: “However, the truth is I do hate the Obamas. I hate what they represent, their policies, their legislation and their ideology.”
Lenington ended his letter with, “I condemn, in the strongest manner, as to why the media refuses to investigate them as they did President Bush and President Clinton and for refusing to label them for what they really are. There is just no possible way; whereby, a white president and his wife could ignore the law, flaunt their position and be the lord of the people, as these two are permitted out of fear for their color.”
The closing is similar to a paragraph near the end of Massie’s editorial: “I condemn in the strongest possible terms the media for refusing to investigate them as they did President Bush and President Clinton, and for refusing to label them for what they truly are. There is no scenario known to man, whereby a white president and his wife could ignore laws, flaunt their position, and lord over the people as these two are permitted out of fear for their color.”
Copies of an email exchange between Massie and Lenington show that the county official asked the author Aug. 6 about using some of his material in an editorial.
In an email to Massie, sent from Lenington’s government email account, he wrote, “Do I have your permission to use some of your excellent Anti-Obama comments? I am preparing an editorial for a local newspaper and would like to include some of your comments from “Best Summation of the Obamas” Very well done!”
He then signed the email, “MAX R. LENINGTON, YELLOWSTONE COUNTY ASSESSOR/TREASURER/SUPT. OF SCHOOLS”
Massie gave Lenington permission, as long as no changes were made to quoted material and attribution was given to Massie. The author also asked that if the letter was published online, that it link back to Massie’s original editorial, which is posted on Mychal-Massie.com.
“Obviously he saw fit to do none of this,” Massie said. “My concern is that he has plagiarized word for word nearly all of my piece. This is so very unacceptable.”
Massie also pointed out to Lenington that the “Best Summation of the Obamas” article he wanted to quote had the incorrect title and incorrect biographical information.
Lenington submitted his letter to several newspapers, including the Casper-Star Tribune, a sister paper of the Gazette that is also owned by Lee Enterprises. The Star-Tribune published the letter last week.
In an Aug. 19 email to the Tribune’s editorial staff, also sent from his government email address, Lenington wrote, “I submitted the following letter to (5) of Montana’s largest papers and none of them will print the same.”
The newspapers’ refusal to publish his letter proved “the point I had made in both editorials as to the death of journalism,” Lenington said.