One of the sleaziest ways to respond when accused of misconduct is to deny something you weren’t accused of. That’s the way Rand Paul has decided to handle the fact (no, not a mere “accusation”) that on at least two occasions he made speeches that quoted verbatim from Wikipedia entries without giving due credit.
The more recent instance involved the movie Gattaca, whose plot he cited as a reason for restricting abortion. Accused of plagiarism from Wikipedia, Paul responds that he gave credit: to the movie. Of course he did. He was talking about the movie. In particular, he was pretending that he’d seen the movie. But instead he simply lifted the description of the plotline from an on-line source, like a seventh grader cribbing a book report from a published review. Of course the book report is going to mention the book; the sin is in concealing the fact that the description of the book is not the pupil’s own work.
The 7th grader, if caught, would probably just get an F on the book report. Try that in college, and a second offense could easily get you suspended for a term with a permanent notation about academic dishonesty going on your transcript. But if you’re a Red-team U.S. Senator running for President, you just get to blame it on Rachel Maddow, and some reporters will, with a straight face, report your “defense” as if it weren’t an insult to the reader’s intelligence.
Is this a minor incident? Of course it is. But, as every novelist knows, sometimes a minor incident can be the best way of showing character. Or its absence.