Last week The Miami Herald used the word "scandal" in a headline on a story about author – and sometimes television figure – Gerald Posner. He was accused of plagiarism in various works, including his book Miami Babylon. It cost Posner his job as investigative reporter for the online publication "The Daily Beast." Internet bloggers jumped all over the story, pointing to other examples of Posner writing stuff without mentioning that somebody else had already written them. Some of the lifted material was from the Herald, in his own home turf.
What the hell, who to cast the first stone? Back in the 1970s when our Gold Coast magazine was associated with Miami Magazine (R.I.P.), we had a young writer who did a piece on football. We discovered that large passages, we mean pages, had come from an article printed in a prominent national magazine. It sounded incredibly stupid for the guy to think he could get away with it. Only later did we learn another regional magazine, a fairly obscure one, had already been caught plagiarizing the same article. We could never prove it, for our writer left town quickly, but we think he may have stolen the passages from the obscure magazine, unaware that he was stealing secondhand from the original thief. This changed our opinion. Our writer was not incredibly stupid, just credibly stupid.
As for the Herald's use of the word "scandal," we think that better fits a book that put Posner on the map. Case Closed got a lot of ink in 1993 when Posner sought to refute all the conspiracy nuts, like our magazine, by writing that Lee Harvey Oswald alone murdered President John F. Kennedy. His work was either incredibly sloppy or deliberately distortive. It was filled with factual errors and ignored the considerable evidence that more than one assassin (and Oswald wasn't one of them) was involved.
The timing was strange. Gaeton Fonzi's The Last Investigation appeared at the same time in 1993, and both books were reviewed. Fonzi had worked 18 years on his book; Posner's sounded as if his was written in 18 hours. Some with knowledge of the subject slaughtered Posner's crude effort. Yet some reviews, including the Sun-Sentinel, were impressed by Posner's slight book while dismissing Fonzi's long, heavily researched work. Fonzi doesn't think the Sun-Sentinel writer even read his book. At the time, one wondered if somebody put Posner up to his project in order to offset the impact of what has now become an iconic work – Fonzi's was the first book to connect Oswald to the CIA and to detail the agency's efforts to sabotage his investigation.
We took this personally, for Fonzi had been a partner in our magazine and his revelations originally appeared in Gold Coast in 1980. His was not the work of an outside sensationalist; he was the first man to interview Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter after he came up with the absurd single-bullet theory for the Warren Commission. He later spent five years on the government payroll, working for two congressional committees when the JFK murder was reopened in the 1970s. Well, history has apologized to Fonzi. His book was re-published two years ago and is now referenced in virtually every new book, and there have been some very good ones, dealing with the crime of the last century. These writers, unlike Posner, give credit where due. Most Americans now believe the original Warren Commission was a government cover-up of a government-related assassination.
It took awhile, but now it appears history has also caught up with Gerald Posner.