Montana Senator John Walsh has been caught in a plagiarism scandal after it was revealed that big chunks of his 2007 Army War College thesis was lifted from sources available on the internet. Now he’s claiming that post-traumatic stress disorder (Walsh is an Iraq War veteran) may have played a factor in his plagiarism.
“I don’t want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor,” Walsh told the Associated Press. “My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment.”
That sounds pretty lame. If you’re not blaming your mistake on PTSD, why even bring it up?
Regardless, this has some implications for Senator Heidi Heitkamp who was backing Walsh to win his first election to the Senate (he was previously appointed from Lt. Governor to the Senate by Governor Brian Bullock). Heitkamp’s Dakota Prairie PAC has given Walsh’s campaign $10,000 over the last couple of years.
But it’s not just that Heitkamp is on the record supporting someone who apparently lacked the integrity to write his own thesis. It’s that Walsh is trying to use PTSD as an excuse.
Heitkamp has been very outspoken on the PTSD issue. Just last month she addressed an American Legion convention in Minot and spoke about the issue.
“Post-traumatic stress is an injury that most people can’t see by looking at our veterans. But it is real, and every day it takes an incredible toll on millions of our veterans,” said Heitkamp. “We need to work together, all Americans, to raise awareness about this issue, and help those who are suffering get back on their feet. We sent these brave men and women to war and we owe it to them to be there as they go through their recovery.”
Heitkamp’s right. It’s a serious issue. One not helped by a high-profile individual like Senator Walsh trivializing it by trying to pin his academic indiscretions on it.
It will be interesting to see if Heitkamp calls for her a refund on her contributions, or if she continues to support Walsh, given these revelations.