Support Local Journalism


Montana Democratic Sen. John Walsh plagiarized large portions of his final research paper for the U.S. Army War College, a revelation that could have a significant effect on the race to represent the state in Washington.

In an interview with the Chronicle on Wednesday, Montana's former lieutenant governor stopped short of apologizing. Although the paper includes large word-for-word sections from academic works, Walsh said the plagiarism was unintentional and that he was taking medication at the time.

“I made a mistake. It was an unintentional mistake, but I'm going to accept responsibility for it,” Walsh said. “I don't believe that one research paper is going to define my leadership and my 33 years in the Montana National Guard.”

Walsh is running for one of Montana's U.S. Senate seats against Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Daines. When asked how this would affect his campaign Walsh deferred, saying he would continue to talk about his military record and focus on Montana and veteran issues.

Walsh said he wrote the War College final paper after returning from Iraq — a conflict that, according to him, caused him to have night tremors, sleep deprivation and anxiety, symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder.

He was prescribed medications for those symptoms, but there was no indication the senator had been diagnosed with PTSD by a doctor.

“As you can imagine when I came home from Iraq I struggled with and continue to manage some issues from the deployment,” Walsh told the Chronicle. “We had four soldiers killed while I was in Iraq. When I was at the Army War College I was dealing with the issue of Sgt. Christopher Dana that had committed suicide so I was not in the best place. I made a mistake.”

Walsh said that he had been taking Paroxetine, better known as Paxil, a drug prescribed to treat depression, panic, and social anxiety disorders along with PTSD.

“I still take a small amount, yes,” Walsh said. “When I get checkups at the VA on an annual basis they check to make sure the medication is not causing any problems.

“I admit I'm not an academic. I've been a soldier all my life, focusing on leading men and women from the time I became a young officer as a platoon leader and moved up to company commander and that's been my focus,” said Walsh. “I don't think my record will be defined by a research paper but by my leadership at the Montana National Guard and my leadership of the 700 troops I led in Iraq.”

Walsh submitted the 14-page paper in 2007. An analysis by the New York Times, which first reported the story online Wednesday, showed the paper contained words identical to those in academic and policy journals and books available mostly online. Walsh was 46 when he submitted the thesis entitled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy.”

Sen. John Walsh's paper submitted as his final research paper for U.S. Army War College in 2007.

An Associated Press analysis of the thesis found its first page borrows heavily from a 2003 Foreign Affairs piece written by Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a 2004 book by Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer called “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.”

Sharansky is a former Soviet dissident and chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Dermer is the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

One section of the paper is nearly identical to 600 words from a 1998 paper by Sean Lynn-Jones, a scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a research institute at Harvard.

All six of the recommendations that Walsh lists at the end of his paper are taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie paper written by Carothers and three other scholars at the institute.

Walsh told the Times he didn't think he did anything wrong in writing his thesis.

Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told the Associated Press the committee remains “100 percent behind Sen. Walsh.”

“John Walsh is a decorated war hero, and it’s disgusting that Steve Daines and Washington Republicans are going to try to denigrate John’s distinguished service after multiple polls show him gaining,” Barasky said. “Steve Daines should immediately denounce these latest smears and call for an end to all attacks on John Walsh’s record protecting Montana and serving his country.”

Alee Lockman, a spokeswoman for Daines, said Wednesday she had just seen the Times’ report and did not have an immediate comment.

Montana State University political scientist David Parker said the only way Walsh can recover the public's trust is to be transparent.

“Best case scenario, Walsh will be open, honest and apologetic,” Parker said. “This definitely brings up integrity issues that the senator has been fighting since being criticized by Daines' campaign over that inspector general report,” Parker said.

Parker was referencing Daines' campaign ads attacking Walsh over a 2010 Army report that said Walsh, who was the head of the Montana National Guard, had improperly solicited soldiers to join the National Guard Association of the United States, a private group that lobbies on behalf of the National Guard.

“I hate to say this hands anyone a victory, because plagiarism hurts everyone,” said Parker. “As an educator this makes it hard for me to do my job when students say, ‘Look, a U.S. senator plagiarized his work.'”

Asked about restoring the public's trust, Walsh said he would work “extremely hard” for Montanans. “I acknowledge that it was a mistake and I'm going to move on.”

Troy Carter can be reached at 582-2630 or He’s on Twitter at @cartertroy.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.


Troy Carter covers politics and county government for the Chronicle.

Support quality local journalism. Become a subscriber.

Subscribers get full, survey-free access to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle's award-winning coverage both on our website and in our e-edition, a digital replica of the print edition.