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Sorenson Admits ‘Profiles in Courage’ Role

Ted Sorenson has finally admitted that he had a large role in writing Profiles in Courage, for which John F. Kennedy won a Pulitzer Prize as a solo author.

According to a Wall Street Journal review, Sorensen says, for the first time, that he “did a first draft of most chapters,” “helped choose the words of many of its sentences” and likely “privately boasted or indirectly hinted that I had written much of the book.”

In other words, he wrote the book, Kennedy did some very late editing, and claimed it as his own work.

Sorensen also admits that in 1957 — just after the book won a Pulitizer Prize — that Kennedy “unexpectedly and generously offered, and I happily accepted, a sum” for Sorensen’s work on the book.

It was, quite literally, the least he could do.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    James;
    Political wire’s server is apparently having a problem, and I can’t see it hre. Else the firewall here.

    Either way; Does the article address why this comes up just now?

    In any event, it rather makes one eye Obama’s book with a jaundiced eye, no? And Al Gore’s for that matter.

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  2. sam says:

    In any event, it rather makes one eye Obama’s book with a jaundiced eye, no? And Al Gore’s for that matter.

    Why not say “Any politician’s book” and be done with it. McCain has “co-authored” a number of books with his admin assistant Mark Salter — How much do you really think he’s written?

    Oh, and Winston Churchill excepted (“any politician”).

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  3. James Joyner says:

    Political wire’s server is apparently having a problem

    Yup. I emailed Taegan and he’s on it.

    Does the article address why this comes up just now?

    Sorenson’s got a new book out — under his own byline! — telling his life’s story.

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  4. Michael says:

    Why not say “Any politician’s book” and be done with it.

    Why stop the generalization there? If politican authors can do it, any author can do it. Just how much of “The Shining” did Steven King write? And I’ve always suspected Tolstoy. Heck, I bet JFK wrote most of Sorenson’s new book. They’re all suspect now!

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  5. Bithead says:

    Why not say “Any politician’s book” and be done with it.

    well, that’s true enough a question, but I picked those beacuse those two boosk are certainly at the top of the political discussions, these days, as much as Kennedy’s Sorrensen’s was, then. Funny thing, Gore got a Nobel, too, didn’t he?

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  6. Bithead says:

    under his own byline

    Well, it’d be a little hard to get JFK to edit it for him. Nezat trick, if you can do it.

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  7. Michael says:

    Well, it’d be a little hard to get JFK to edit it for him. Nezat trick, if you can do it.

    He could always edit it himself, then let Kennedy take the credit.

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  8. just me says:

    Why not say “Any politician’s book” and be done with it. McCain has “co-authored” a number of books with his admin assistant Mark Salter — How much do you really think he’s written?

    When a politician or celebrity has a named co-author I generally assume the politician/celebrity shared the stories either verbally and/or in writing, and the coauthor did the majority of actually writing.

    I think there is a difference between somebody claiming they wrote a book all by themselves when they didn’t, and claiming some of the credit for a book, but still acknowledging the coauthor.

    But I imagine ghost writers are a common phenomenon when it comes to books “written” by the famous or politicians.

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  9. yetanotherjohn says:

    One difference is that most politician books are about their favorite subject (them) or “what we should do” policy type books.

    Profiles in courage was neither of those. It did not need the “I was there” aspect of the writer. It did not need the “credentials” of the author to validate the policy recommendations.

    Before we get to bent out of shape on this, recognize that Sorenson does have a financial interest in telling this story. Unfortunately for him, anything that dims the JFK halo also dims Obama’s shining star. So I bet his book tanks.

    If JFK did anything on the book and had given Sorenson co-author credit, there would be no controversy what so ever. JFK’s name sold the book that Sorenson wrote. Everyone can understand that. So other than a reflexive defense of Obama (and there is a lot of unthinking pavlovian responses out there trying to swaddle Obama in cotton) I’m not sure what Sam’s problem with the McCain book would be since it designated a co-author.

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  10. sam says:

    Unfortunately for him, anything that dims the JFK halo also dims Obama’s shining star

    Non sequitur.

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  11. KK says:

    The name of the book is “PROFILES IN COURAGE.” You wrote “Profiles of Courage.” Or maybe JFK wrote one book and Sorenson wrote another!

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  12. KK says:

    Oops. I misquoted your error! You wrote “Profiles FOR Courage.”

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  13. [...] James Joyner   [...]

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  14. yetanotherjohn says:

    Sam,

    Why is the supposed link between Obama and JFK a non sequitur in how well the book will do? Look up how many democrat super delegates are citing JFK when they announce their support for Obama. Given that, something that says JFK is a plagiarist (someone who passes of the work of another as their own work) in turn points out Obama’s ‘borrowing’ the work of others without attribution (fair or not and Obama certainly isn’t in the class of lifting an entire book). Now the left is going to be drinking the koolaide for Obama. Are they going to want to hear that one of the party icons was a thief? Is the right going to buy the book in droves (unless it has a lot more juice in it)? So the market for the book has been greatly diminished.

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  15. Well, John Kennedy could be a ghost writer for Ted Sorenson.

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  16. anjin-san says:

    Funny thing, Gore got a Nobel, too, didn’t he?

    Gore’s Nobel was awarded based on his work on global warming, which is many faceted. Are you perhaps thinking of the Pulitzer prize, which is awarded for literature? Don’t think Gore has one of those. In either case, his work as a writer is only a small portion of what earned him a Nobel, and you attempt to smear him based on something another politician did 50 years ago is pretty lame…

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  17. anjin-san says:

    Obama’s borrowing’ the work of others without attribution

    Total crap dude… the man he supposedly “plagiarized” is in fact, a contributor to his campaign effort who helps him with writing, and is on record saying that Obama used his work with his full knowledge and approval. Did Ronald Reagan “plagiarize” Peggy Noonan? I think not.

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  18. Bithead says:

    Non sequitur.

    Not really, no.

    Gore’s Nobel was awarded based on his work on global warming, which is many faceted.

    And has been exposed as total political trash. I don’t need to smear Gore. He does a wonderful job of it all by himself…. as we get reminded every time someone takes a serious look at his ‘work’.

    You’re dismissed.

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  19. Bithead says:

    Total crap dude… the man he supposedly “plagiarized” is in fact, a contributor to his campaign effort who helps him with writing, and is on record saying that Obama used his work with his full knowledge and approval.

    YEah, well, funny how that didn’t come out until there were many copies of the ‘work’ out there without the attribution.
    It may not be stealing,(Though frankly, I wonder about this) but it is most certainly lying.

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  20. anjin-san says:

    You’re dismissed.

    Its good that you take yourself seriously bit, that way there is at least one person in the world who does…

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  21. Bithead says:

    And you feel yourself qualified to speak for all others, do you? Forgive me, I wasn’t aware omnipotence was on your list of qualities.

    Rest assured, I don’t take YOU seriously. Or, more correctly, I put you and Gore on the same level.
    It all evens out, that way.

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  22. anjin-san says:

    Your an interesting one bit, your entire view of the world seems to be based on hate and fear. You hate and fear Muslims, a significant percentage of the worlds population.

    You hate and fear Democrats, half of your own country. Do you feel you are someone who loves America? How do you do that hating half the people in her? Its a bit like saying you are really into your marriage, you just can’t stand your wife.

    As for being put on the same level as Gore, I have never been his biggest fan, though he has grown on me over the last few years. At any rate, he probably accomplishes more before lunch than you do in an average year. Maybe that’s why you can’t stand him…

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  23. Bithead says:

    Your an interesting one bit, your entire view of the world seems to be based on hate and fear. You hate and fear Muslims, a significant percentage of the worlds population.

    Heh… not unusual for you, you go wrong right at the off. One of the best friends I’ve got in the world is a Muslim.

    You hate and fear Democrats, half of your own country. Do you feel you are someone who loves America? How do you do that hating half the people in her? Its a bit like saying you are really into your marriage, you just can’t stand your wife.

    Once again, low and outside for a ball. Count is ) and 2. You want to know what I hate? People who are out to destroy this country., either by intention (As in radical muslims or the socialist left) or by inattention, and just downright stupidity. (Democrats)

    As for being put on the same level as Gore, I have never been his biggest fan, though he has grown on me over the last few years. At any rate, he probably accomplishes more before lunch than you do in an average year. Maybe that’s why you can’t stand him…

    Actually, no. Good job… you’re three for three. Look above. Accomplishments? I don’t know. Do you consider the successful spreading of lies, accomplishment?

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  24. anjin-san says:

    You want to know what I hate? People who are out to destroy this country., either by intention (As in radical muslims or the socialist left) or by inattention, and just downright stupidity. (Democrats)

    Ummm… in other words, as I said, you hate roughly half the country. (not numerically, but in terms of philosophy, I think it is generally conceded that the country is split down the middle). You can’t be into your marriage when you hate your wife.

    I submit that you hate our country. BTW you might want to consider showing some respect for your friend’s faith and type it out correctly…… Muslims.

    Tell me, are all the Muslims in Iran, the country you are so eager to lay waste to bad people?

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  25. anjin-san says:

    I see your use of caps for “Muslims” is not incorrect, simply inconsistent. My mistake…

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  26. Michael says:

    I see your use of caps for “Muslims” is not incorrect, simply inconsistent. My mistake…

    Capitalization errors aren’t spelling errors. For that matter, I don’t think there is a “proper” spelling for Arabic words in Latin alphabets.

    Oh, and being a spelling/grammar Nazi, not the best way to stand your ground in a debate. If you felt like you needed to do that, you obviously didn’t think to highly of the merits of your own argument.

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  27. anjin-san says:

    Did I mention spelling? Nope.

    I do think its important to show respect for people religious views. Hence, “Muslims” instead of “muslims”. If that bothers you, TFB.

    By the way, “muslims” draws a spell check error. So it does appear to at least be a grammar error. Generally I do not give a crap about such things, but in this instance, I do.

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  28. Bithead says:

    Ummm… in other words, as I said, you hate roughly half the country.

    So, clearly, mere fact wasn’t involved in the path toward this conclusion, and you’re just tossing feces.

    Noted.

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  29. Michael says:

    I do think its important to show respect for people religious views. Hence, “Muslims” instead of “muslims”. If that bothers you, TFB.

    No offense, but showing respect by capitalizing is about as substantial as supporting our troops with ribbon magnets.

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