Washington Post Suspends Mexico Bureau Chief for Plagiarism

The Washington Post's William Booth admitted to lifting sentences from an academic journal

The Washington Post suspended Mexico bureau chief William Booth on Thursday after he admitted to plagiarizing four sentences from an academic journal, an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.

Getty ImagesIn a story about the expansion of the Panama Canal, Booth took lines from the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, an ethical breach he called a "very serious lapse" but said in a public apology, released by the Post, that it was accidental.

"I am so sorry for what I did. It was a very serious lapse," Booth said in the statement. "This was not intentional. It was an inadvertent and sloppy mistake.

"I also want to apologize to my editors and colleagues, and especially to the readers of the Washington Post, for my failure to measure up," he said. "I hope to regain your trust. I will work hard to do that."

The Post outlined the steps the paper took from the moment it learned of the journalistic transgression to the letter sent from Baron to Hricko and said it would take "severe and appropriate action with regard to Mr. Booth."

Also read: CNN Joins Time in Suspending Fareed Zakaria for Plagiarism (Updated)

Kristine Coratti, the director of communications for the Post, declined to comment on Booth's  status.

The Post appended the Jan. 12 online version of the story, "Expanded Panama Canal sparks race to be ready for bigger cargo ships," with an editor's note apologizing and saying, "it is the Post's policy that the use of material from other newspapers or sources must be properly attributed."

Executive Editor Marty Baron wrote a personal apology to Andrea Hricko, a professor at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. Hricko wrote the Dec. 3, 2012,  article that Booth scraped for sentences.

"You have our deepest apology, and you have our assurance that we are taking this matter very seriously," Baron said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by TheWrap. "We should never take the original work of others and present it as our own."

Baron did not respond to an email from TheWrap for additional comment.

Hricko, who first alerted the paper to the stolen sentences, said the Post took appropriate steps to correct the mistake.

Also read: Washington Post Ombudsman Blasts Paper's Handling of Young Journalists

"I believe that the Washington Post acted with integrity and responsibility in this case," she said in an email to TheWrap.

Booth is the Mexico bureau chief for the paper where he works with his wife, former Los Angeles Times reporter Anne-Marie O'Connor, who contributes coverage to the Post.

He previously filed to the national desk, as the Post's chief reporter in Miami and Los Angeles and served stints as a correspondent in Haiti, the Balkans and Iraq.

Booth is the second Post writer in recent months to have his work come under scrutiny.

In August, op-ed columnist Fareed Zakaria, who also hosts "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on CNN and writes for Time, was caught lifting material from the New Yorker in an essay he published in Time.

The Post reviewed Zakaria's previous bylines and cleared him of any plagiarism charges.