Harper's plagiarized speech makes worldwide headlines
TORONTO - The most recent election campaign drama to unfold in Canada is getting international airtime on news websites from the United States to Australia.
Media outlets including ABC, CNN, MSNBC, FOXNews, the BBC, International Herald Tribune and the International Business Times have all picked up on a story detailing how an aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper plagiarized a speech in 2003 from then Australian leader John Howard.
Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae first made the allegations at an address in Toronto on Tuesday where he released transcripts and video highlighting striking similarities and even nearly verbatim passages common to the two speeches in support of the war in Iraq.
Harper was Opposition leader at the time.
After initially downplaying Rae's accusations of plagiarism, the Conservative war room later released a statement announcing that Owen Lippert, Harper's former speechwriter, had taken responsibility for cribbing Howard's words and had resigned his current position as a Harper campaign aid.
"Neither my superiors in the office of the leader of the Opposition nor the leader of the Opposition was aware that I had done so," Lippert said in a statement.
"I apologize to all involved and have resigned my position from the Conservative campaign."
International media seized on the story, displaying it prominently on the world news section of many websites.
"Canadian party accuses PM of copying speech," read the headline on MSNBC.com, while the story carried in the International Business Times' website is entitled "Canada opposition party accuses PM of plagiarism."
Coverage was most widespread in Australia with the Melbourne Herald Sun, Brisbane Times and ABC's Australian news section all displaying articles on their main pages.
One Australian headline even incorrectly suggested that Harper himself had resigned over the incident. Online news sites based in Taiwan and New Zealand were also carrying the story early Wednesday.
At least one media outlet included a link to the Liberal comparison video as part of its coverage.
Most of the pickups focused on the details reported in Canadian media on Tuesday, but reaction from Australian officials began to emerge in foreign coverage.
A spokesman for Howard said the former prime minister had no comment on the issue.
Australian economist John Kunkel, who served as Howard's speechwriter from 2004 to 2007, said plagiarism in speech writing is not uncommon in any political system and said he doubts Howard was offended by the incident.
"I think he'd probably find it mildly amusing," Kunkel said. "He'd probably have a good degree of sympathy for his good friend, Mr. Harper."