Carter Book Filled with Lies, Fantasies, and Plagarism

Ken Stein, a former director of the Carter Center, has resigned from the institution after 23 years citing ethical issues with President Carter’s latest book, which he termed “replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions and simply invented segments.”

That criticism is the latest in a growing chorus of academics who have taken issue with the book, including Alan M. Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard, who called the book “ahistorical,” and David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “I was just very saddened by it,” Mr. Makovsky said. “I just found so many errors.”


Mr. Stein was executive director of the Carter Center from 1983 to 1986 and had continued to serve as a Middle East fellow until Tuesday. In 1985, he wrote a book with Mr. Carter, “The Blood of Abraham: Insights in the Middle East,” which was published by Houghton-Mifflin.

Mr. Stein said the former president had come to speak to his class as recently as last month. Mr. Stein declined to detail all the inaccuracies he found, saying he was still documenting them for a planned review of the book; but he did offer a few examples.

Mr. Carter, he said, remembers White House staff members in 1990 being preoccupied by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait when the former president tried to describe to them talks he had had with Middle Eastern leaders. But the White House briefings occurred in the spring, Mr. Stein said, and the invasion of Kuwait was not until August. “You can’t write history simply off the top of your head and expect it to be credible,” he said.

Mr. Stein also said he had been struck by parts of Mr. Carter’s book that seemed strikingly similar to a work by a different author, but he would not disclose the details. “There are elements in the book that were lifted from another source,” Mr. Stein said. “That other source is now acting on his or her own advice about what to do because of this.”

Powerful stuff, none of which has been refuted other than with some suggestions Stein was miffed at not getting more credit.

Although he is a highly intelligent and learned man, Carter is not a professional scholar. His books are combination memoir and pronouncements from on high rather than academic tomes, so it is reasonable to apply somewhat different standards to them than those by people like Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Still, even senior statesmen are expected to do some fact checking, let alone refrain from using others’ work without acknowlegement.

While Carter is hardly my favorite politician and I have found much of his recent preening annoying, I nonetheless have always admired him as a man of principle. I hope he addresses these charges soon.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.