By popular request (and with substantial assistance from AuthorSkeptics):
Harvard Parody script for “I’m Larry Tribe:”:
The Story Behind the Parody, 11/8/2010
“In early 2005, the Harvard Law School Drama Society performed a parody song (‘I’m Larry Tribe,’ set to the tune of ‘I Will Survive’) that made fun of the God Save incident.”
National Review Online, 6/28/2010
[Zoom in on photo of cover of Laurence H. Tribe’s book, God Save This Honorable Court: How the Choice of Supreme Court Justices Shapes Our History (1985).]
[Zoom in on inside right cover, particularly the statement that Tribe’s book is “the culmination of years of research and reflection” – not, for example, something cobbled together in a few weeks by a first-year law student.]
[Zoom in on photo of 1986-87 Harvard Law School faculty, ending in headshot of Tribe, while beginning of “I’m Larry Tribe” 2005 parody skit plays.]
[Title page, with photo of the “I’m Larry Tribe” skit taken at the 2005 parody show.]
“I’m Larry Tribe”: The Story Behind the Parody
A totally unofficial production of the
Harvard Law School
July 8, 2010
In 2005 a group of students at Harvard Law School producing an annual parody show stood up to the most famous law professor in the nation.
Even though he was a mentor and close friend of the dean, they called him out for unethical behavior.
They ridiculed him before an audience of thousands of members of the law school community.
When the professor suggested he’d been treated unfairly they did not back off.
Instead they ridiculed him further.
They set up a website to call nationwide attention to his unethical behavior.
They challenged him to account for his misconduct.
This is the story behind the parody.
For documentation of the facts set out here, consult the websites referenced at the end.
[Photo of Dershowitz, Ogletree and Tribe standing next to each other in 1987-88 faculty photo; zoom in to Dershowitz headshot]
ALAN DERSHOWITZ: An “orgy of plagiarism”
[Photo of cover of The Case For Israel, by Alan Dershowitz]
In 2003, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz published A Case For Israel. It plagiarized extensively from a 1984 book on Israel by Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial.
A student ghostwriter working for Dershowitz had copied hundreds of words (including various quotation mistakes and other errors) out of Peters’ book. In a handwritten note, Dershowitz specifically instructed her to copy this material from Peters’ book. This “smoking gun” handwritten note was inadvertently circulated by Dershowitz’s publisher, in early copies of the manuscript sent to reviewers.
One reviewer called the result of Dershowitz’s instructions an “orgy of plagiarism” – “wholesale, unacknowledged looting” of Peters’ research.
California attorney Frank J. Menetrez, who holds both a J.D. and a Ph.D (in philosophy) from UCLA, conducted an exhaustive study of the plagiarism charges against Dershowitz.
Menetrez focused on whether both the Peters book and the Dershowitz book contain identical errors which can plausibly be explained only as a result of Dershowitz copying from Peters.
In particular, Menetrez compared the quotation in Peters’ book, and in Dershowitz’s book, of the Oxford University edition of The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain. Peters’ book made 20 mistakes in quoting Twain. Menetrez found that “Dershowitz’s version reproduces every one” of the 20 errors in Peters’ quoting of Twain. Dershowitz “adds a few errors that Peters did not make.”
Menetrez concluded: “The cumulative weight of these identical errors strikes me as considerable. I do not see how Dershowitz could, purely by coincidence, have precisely reproduced all of Peters’ errors if he was working from the original Twain.” “Rather, the only reasonable inference seems to be that he copied the quotation from Peters. But Dershowitz does not cite Peters as his source for the quotation. He cites only Twain.”
Harvard president Lawrence Summers and law school dean Elena Kagan did nothing to discipline Dershowitz.
He remains a professor in good standing at Harvard Law School.
[Photo of Dershowitz, Ogletree and Tribe standing next to each other in 1987-88 faculty photo; zoom in to Ogletree headshot]
CHARLES OGLETREE: “Double plagiarism” and “tenure-revoking ghostwriting”
As the New Republic reported in 1993, when Charles Ogletree was earlier voted a tenure-track appointment to the Harvard Law School faculty, a special resolution was passed.
Its purpose was to enable Ogletree to qualify for tenure despite his minimal scholarly accomplishments.
Called the “Ogletree resolution,” as one professor put it, it amounted to “an understanding that while what he published didn’t have to be any good, he did have to publish something.”
As another professor explained:
“They wanted Ogletree. They felt he was a good black – a balancer, a steadygoer, not a loose cannon. So the threshold was dramatically lowered for him.”
According to several Harvard Law Review editors interviewed for the New Republic story, the article Ogletree submitted for publication to qualify for tenure “was a fraud, ghostwritten entirely by [an] entourage of Ogletree sycophants . . . .”
As one editor put it: “Ogletree submitted two or three pages of jottings on his career as a public defender. The entire article was manufactured by students.”
Commenting on these reports, one law professor reflected: “Look, of course we need more blacks. But Ogletree’s a lawyer, not a scholar. He’s just way beyond his depth here.”
Fears of being called racist prevented the students from openly confronting Ogletree for his use of ghostwriters.
“The words I’ve heard are ‘terrified’ and ‘petrified,’” said the professor.”
“If race were not involved, they might feel able to go to the dean about it. But they’re afraid they’ll get pilloried. The whole thing is so unethical, it’s outrageous.”
Ogletree denied he’d used ghostwriters to produce his tenure piece.
Then-dean Robert Clark, commenting on the charges, observed:
“Politically, you realize that it’s very complicated. We have, uh, a very charged atmosphere here.”
In 1993 was Ogletree was granted tenure.
A decade later Ogletree would finally be forced to admit to heavy reliance on ghostwriters, after his ghostwriters made a huge mistake in writing a book for him.
In the spring of 2004, Ogletree published a book about the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.
[zoom in on cover of book]
[zoom in on right inside cover extolling the “exacting legal analysis” and “brilliant insight” in the book]
[zoom in on left inside cover quoting Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., on the “bold and original analysis” in the book, and quoting Prof. Alan Dershowitz on this “must-read” book]
A law professor anonymously wrote Dean Elena Kagan, informing her that six consecutive paragraphs of Ogletree’s book had been lifted from a 2001 book on the same subject by Yale law professor Jack Balkin.
[zoom in on photo of Kagan]
For months Dean Kagan took advantage of the professor’s failure to call Ogletree’s plagiarism to the attention of the press.
For months she said nothing.
Kagan waited until the Friday evening before Labor Day to post a short statement about it on the law school’s website.
In the statement, Ogletree explained that students who had helped him draft the book had inserted into their draft the six paragraphs from Balkin’s book. As former Harvard president Derek Bok explained when interviewed by the Harvard Crimson, Ogletree had “parceled out the work” to student assistants.
Ogletree apologized for not reading the students’ draft carefully enough to notice the six paragraphs copied from Balkin’s book.
Questioned by a Harvard Crimson reporter about his method for producing books, Ogletree denied delegating all of the drafting work to his student assistants. He insisted he “was closely involved in most of the drafting of the book.”
President Summers and Dean Kagan did nothing to discipline Ogletree.
Summers and Kagan did nothing even after the Harvard Crimson reported in 2006 that Ogletree’s book also plagiarized from a 1996 book by Roy Brooks, a professor at the University of California.
Four sentences of Ogletree’s book were copied, with minor rewording, from four sentences in Brooks’s book. The four sentences in Ogletree’s book appear in exactly the same order as in Brooks’s book.
Despite repeated efforts by the Harvard Crimson to contact Ogletree for comment (at his home phone and cell phone, and by e-mail), the normally media-friendly Ogletree made no effort to defend himself regarding this further evidence of plagiarism in his book.
[Photo of Joseph Bottum]
Writing in the Weekly Standard, Joseph Bottum observed:
“[B]y every explanation, Ogletree conceived much of the book as a kind of double plagiarism”
“He set out to put his name on work done by his assistants, who, he knew, were merely rephrasing work written by other people. That is not a book. It is, at the least, tenure-revoking ghostwriting.”
Ogletree remains a professor in good standing at Harvard Law School.
[Photo of Harvard president Lawrence Summers in academic regalia]
In September, 2004, Harvard president Lawrence Summers gave an interview to the Harvard Crimson.
He stated that despite the Dershowitz and Ogletree cases, “he did not see ‘a big trend’ of plagiarism problems at the Law School . . . .”
Summers added that “a third case would change his mind. ‘If you had a third one, then . . . okay, you get to say this is a special thing, a focused problem at the Law School’ . . . .”
[Photo of Dershowitz, Ogletree and Tribe standing next to each other in 1987-88 faculty photo; zoom in to Tribe headshot]
LAURENCE TRIBE: Tribe’s “research factory”: “a bigger kind of plagiarism”
[Zoom in on photo over cover of Laurence H. Tribe’s book, God Save This Honorable Court: How the Choice of Supreme Court Justices Shapes Our History (1985).]
A third case emerged a week later, when the Weekly Standard published an article by Joseph Bottum about God Save This Honorable Court, a 1985 book on the Supreme Court ostensibly authored by Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe.
A law professor had tipped off the Weekly Standard after reading an e-mail from Tribe defending Ogletree.
Tribe’s e-mail was sent to Dean Lawrence Velvel of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Dean Velvel published it on his widely read blog, Velvel on National Affairs.
In the e-mail, Tribe reiterated that he has “enormous respect” for Ogletree’s work “as a lawyer and an academic,” and views him as “a person of great talent and basic integrity . . . .”
Tribe added in his e-mail to Velvel:
“As to the larger problem you describe — the problem of writers, political office-seekers, judges and other high government officials passing off the work of others as their own — I think you’re focusing on a phenomenon of some significance.”
Tribe’s comments about the importance of authorial ethics echoed his 2002 letter to the Harvard Crimson in which, defending Doris Kearns Goodwin against plagiarism charges, Tribe described himself as a “scholar who values his own integrity and reputation for meticulous attribution as much as anyone could.”
Such statements, the Weekly Standard noted, “seemed a little rich for one reader . . ., a law professor who suggested we take a look at Tribe’s own God Save This Honorable Court if we wanted to explore the ‘problem of writers . . . passing off the work of others as their own . . . .’”
[zoom in on photo of cover of Weekly Standard, and of starting page of “The Big Mahatma” article on Tribe]
In the article, Bottum summarized evidence that Tribe had hired a first-year law student to write much of the book for him.
Bottum also demonstrated in detail that whoever drafted the book had lifted many passages nearly verbatim from the 1974 book Justices and Presidents, by Henry Abraham, a professor of government at the University of Virginia.
[zoom in on examples supplied in article of Tribe lifting passages from Abraham]
Professor Tribe apologized for the offense and then refused to grant interviews or say anything further.
[Photos of Harvard president Lawrence Summers in academic regalia, and of Harvard law school dean Elena Kagan giving a speech]
Harvard president Larry Summers and law school dean Elena Kagan looked into the matter.
Dean Kagan was criticized for involving herself in light of her conflict of interest. In 1980s Kagan, too, had helped draft a book for Tribe (and even lived in his basement).
[photo of Elena Kagan in the 1980s]
[zoom in on title page of the 1988 second edition of Tribe’s constitutional law treatise]
[zoom in on footnote in the preface in which Tribe states, with reference to a relative handful of assistants: “I want to single out for special appreciation, for work especially well done, and for help above and beyond the call of duty, a few of those named above: . . . Elena Kagan (for work on Chapter 13) . . . .”]
Critics pointed out that Kagan had an interest in downplaying evidence that Tribe had made unethical use of ghostwriters, given her own apparent past involvement in the practice.
Summers and Kagan waited six months and then issued a statement stating that the copying was a result of mere “inadvertence” by Tribe, and clearing him of any intentional wrongdoing.
Apparently they concluded that Tribe’s ghostwriter(s), not Tribe himself, had done the actual copying of the material from Henry Abraham’s book.
However, Summers and Kagan did nothing to discipline Tribe for hiring a first-year law student to write a book for him on which Tribe took full credit as the sole author — the taking of credit for the writing of another which, if committed by a student, would trigger the student’s expulsion.
[photo of Dean Lawrence Velvel]
Shortly after Summers and Kagan announced they would impose no discipline on Tribe, Dean Velvel published a long essay on it, entitled A Question of Honesty.
Dean Velvel’s politics are decidedly liberal; no one could suggest he was behind a conservative attack on Tribe.
Velvel observed: “[A]ll of us who care deeply about honesty in academic and literary achievement should focus on the plagiarism and ghostwriting which have occurred at Harvard. That plagiarism and ghostwriting have now gone completely unpunished in the Larry Tribe affair.”
Analyzing the joint statement of Summers and Kagan exonerating Tribe of any intentional wrongdoing, Velvel wrote:
“What can one say of this travesty? Only, I suppose, that it is a travesty. Its language is misleading, its logic miserable, and its spirit corrupt. And all of this obviously was done in the true Washington, D.C. spirit of a whitewashing spin worthy of a Clinton or a Johnson or a Nixon or a Bush.”
“Bottum’s magazine article merely ‘contended’ that Tribe failed to properly attribute phrases and passages? Bottum merely ‘contended’ this? For God’s sake, not only did Bottum make accusations, but Tribe admitted his misconduct almost immediately.”
“There were only ‘brief passages and phrases that echo or overlap’ material in the Abraham book? A word for word plagiarism is merely an ‘echo or overlap’?”
“The conduct occurred two decades ago? So what? What does this mean other than that Tribe managed to keep the lid on the scandal, managed to keep it tamped down, managed to hide it, for twenty years?”
In Dean Velvel’s view, the statement of Summers and Kagan refusing to discipline Tribe was“a whitewash that avoids punishing a celebrity star professor who, despite his stardom, did something quite wrong and got away with it for two decades.”
“Summers’ failure to visit even the slightest punishment on Tribe, . . . is further proof — if further proof were needed — that he is not fit to lead Harvard or any university. He should be fired. And when he leaves he should take Elena Kagan, the Dean of the Law School, with him. They are a combined embarrassment.”
Dean Velvel concluded his essay with by discussing “the ghost in the room”:
Did “one or more student assistants . . . write parts of Tribe’s book, so that it was really student assistants, not Tribe, who did the plagiarizing and copycatting?”
“Why,” Velvel asked, “were Summers and Kagan so ‘firmly convinced that the error was the product of inadvertence rather than intentionality’? . . . Perhaps Tribe did not advertently or intentionally make the error because the error was not made by him.”
“[I]t has been suggested to me,” Velvel observed, “that the reason Summers and Kagan can be certain the plagiarism and copycatting were inadvertent on Tribe’s part is that they know one or more assistants, not Tribe, wrote the offending parts of the book.”
After discussing evidence from Tribe’s own statements suggesting that a ghostwriter committed
the plagiarism, Dean Velvel implored Professor Tribe to clear away, if he could, the charge of having used ghostwriters by making two simple statements:
“1. Except for normal word changes made by others in the editing process, I personally wrote every word of the first and all subsequent drafts of my book.”
“2. Although I received and adopted facts, ideas, and suggestions from others, including assistants, those facts, ideas and suggestions were not presented to me in the form of drafts that were already written into the book or that I put into the book. Rather, I myself wrote the language in the book that reflects those ideas and suggestions.”
Dean Velvel’s essay was e-mailed to Tribe and posted on Velvel’s blog more than five years ago, on 4/22/05.
Despite his earlier e-mail exhange with Dean Velvel, to date Tribe has declined to make these statements which, if truthfully made, would clear away the ghostwriting charge.
[photo of Prof. Peter Charles Hoffer]
Shortly after the Weekly Standard article appeared, noted historian Peter Charles Hoffer, who holds a Ph.D from Harvard and whose son was a student of Tribe’s, addressed Tribe’s scholarly practices.
His remarks were part of an interview which focused on his recent book examining several plagiarism and other scholarly scandals involving noted historians.
[zoom in on photo of cover of Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Fraud – American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis, and Goodwin, by Peter Charles Hoffer]
Hoffer stated that Tribe misuses research assistants and suggested that Tribe is mostly a “compiler” of material drafted for him, running a “research factory” which involves “a bigger kind of plagiarism” than merely lifting isolated material from works by other scholars.
[cut to video of 11/21/2004 C-SPAN “Booknotes” interview of Hoffer]
Q: “What is plagiarism”
Hoffer: “Plagiarism is taking another person’s words and claiming them as your own.”
Q: “What went on with Doris Kearns Goodwin?”
Hoffer: “Goodwin, like Tribe is misusing assistants, overusing assistants. Look, scholarship is two things: it is doing the research and it is writing it up. (15:00) When you get research assistants – I don’t care whether they’re your family, our your friends, or you pay for them, or they’re your students who are in your seminar, who got an A in your first year course – and they start doing your research, you’re not a scholar anymore. You’re sort of running a research corporation. It’s a different kind of enterprise.”
(Q about Hoffer’s family)
Hoffer: I have two sons, and William James, when he was at Johns Hopkins, and when he was at Harvard Law School, one of his professors at Harvard Law School was Laurence Tribe . . . . William James and I have talked about this, and, how can you stand up in front of a group of people as an author, when actually you’re a compiler? So I would have told William James: ‘take someone else for constitutional law.’”
Tribe never disputed Hoffer’s statements concerning Tribe’s practices for compiling written publications, statements made on nationwide television in a C-SPAN “Booknotes” interview with Brian Lamb, aired initially on 11/21/04, and in repeats, and available on the web.
[photo of cover of National Review]
[photo of start of “Pearls Richer Than Tribe?: Plagiarism allegations dog a Harvard professor,” by Robert VerBruggen, published in National Review Online on June 28, 2010]
On June 28, 2010, the National Review published more evidence that Tribe is not an author, but merely a “compiler” of material drafted by assistants.
The article was written by Robert VerBruggen.
As VerBruggen documents, in 1978 Tribe published a constitutional law treatise into which his assistants had copied at least seven passages from issues of the Harvard Law Review.
Tribe’s book gave no credit to the Harvard Law Review for the copied passages.
VerBruggen also shows that in 2000, Tribe published a constitutional law treatise into which one of Tribe’s former students had copied hundreds of words from a 1996 Supreme Court brief on the Seventh Amendment. The former student was one of 11 lawyers and law professors credited on the brief.
Tribe’s treatise gave no credit to the ten others who appeared on that brief.
Tribe’s preface to the 2000 edition of his treatise mentioned the Seventh Amendment as one of “the topics on which this edition makes the largest advance” over his 1988 edition.
[zoom in on title page of Tribe’s 2000 third edition]
[zoom in on pages of book documenting statement just made]
With an entirely “new section,” Tribe mentioned, his treatise now “takes a close look at the Seventh Amendment right to jury trial . . . .”
[zoom in on pages of book documenting statement just made]
That new 14-page section argued that the Seventh Amendment “is a vital limitation” on the power of federal judges to interfere with a plaintiff’s right to a jury verdict.
[zoom in on page of book documenting statement just made]
After a lengthy discussion of the history of the Seventh Amendment, the section stated that the U.S. Supreme Court, in rendering its anti-plaintiff Gasperini decision in 1996, had “seriously misunderstood” that history.
[zoom in on page of book documenting statement just made]
The section concluded by expressing hope that the “aberrant view” of the matter expressed by the five Justices who issued the Gasperini decision, who “essentially ignored” the history of the Seventh Amendment, would be reconsidered in an appropriate case.
[zoom in on page of book documenting statement just made]
Tribe did not disclose to readers that lengthy segments of his historical analysis had been copied verbatim from a pro-plaintiff amicus brief filed in the Gasperini case — so that this analysis, which Tribe claimed as original, had already been considered and rejected by the Supreme Court.
When the National Review learned of Tribe’s copying from the brief and contacted Tribe about it, Tribe stated that one of his assistants who had helped with the drafting of his treatise had been one of the authors listed on the Gasperini amicus brief.
[zoom in on block quote from Tribe appearing in National Review article naming “assistant Jonathan Massey” as the person who drafted the historical analysis in his book]
To alert readers to “possible bias,” Tribe’s treatise discloses whether Tribe was involved as an advocate in a particular case being discussed.
[zoom in on page of book documenting statement just made]
However, no disclosure was made that the Tribe assistant involved in drafting the new Seventh Amendment section had been involved as advocate in the principal Supreme Court case of interest — much less that he had argued a pro-plaintiff position which was rejected by the Court.
[zoom in on photo of Tribe assistant Jonathan S. Massey]
The Tribe assistant — a liberal who clerked for Justice Brennan — had a long history of urging pro-plaintiff arguments on behalf of plaintiffs’ trial lawyers in appellate litigation, another source of possible bias not disclosed by Tribe to his readers.
In 2002, a federal appellate court imposed $71,000 in sanctions on the Tribe assistant for going too far in advocating a pro-plaintiff result in an employment discrimination case, which he briefed on behalf of plaintiffs’ trial lawyers who were attacking a district court decision.
[zoom in on sections of Fifth Circuit order documenting sanctions imposed against Massey]
The appellate court held that the Tribe assistant’s brief contained a “substantial number of outright falsehoods, determinative omissions, out-of-context quotations and specious arguments.”
In particular, the brief “falsely allege[d] . . . that the district court denied [the plaintiffs’] motion without having read their pleadings . . . through selective manipulation of quotations from the record . . . .”
The federal appellate court concluded:
“This omission cannot be dismissed as an oversight; it is indisputably an act of deliberate misrepresentation.”
The Tribe assistant did not contest the $71,000 in sanctions imposed on him. The appeal in which the misrepresentations had been made was dropped. When interviewed, the Tribe assistant stated, “I don’t have anything to say about it.”
After more than five years of silence, Tribe recently answered a press inquiry about his scholarly practices, when the National Review queried him about this evidence that Tribe’s assistants had drafted parts of his constitutional law treatise, and had copied material from other sources, without any sort of attribution.
Tribe admitted for the first time (at least publicly) that during his career he had routinely hired assistants to actually draft parts of his books.
While admitting that his “many research assistants over the years” had done large amounts of drafting of material which Tribe then compiled and edited into finished books, Tribe focused on the “underlying ideas” and “analytic framework” of his books, which Tribe insists are entirely his.
Tribe said nothing about the pro-plaintiff bias of the assistant who had worked on the Seventh Amendment section of his treatise, about the failure to disclose this bias to readers, or about the $71,000 in sanctions imposed on the assistant for overly zealous pro-plaintiff advocacy.
Despite Tribe’s admission that he hires students and other assistants to draft his books for him, this “idea man” still holds the title of University Professor, reserved for about 1% of Harvard’s faculty.
As Dean Velvel put it in 2005:
“Harvard University is now probably the only school in the country with a University Professor who is an admitted plagiarist. Being a University Professor at Harvard . . . is supposed to be a great honor.”
“One would think a University Professor should not only be highly accomplished intellectually, but a person of impeccable intellectual integrity. One would think wrongly, apparently.”
Professor Tribe is currently on leave from Harvard while serving as a senior Department of Justice official.
Holding Harvard Plagiarists Accountable
Harvard administrators have fallen down on their job. They have openly tolerated professors who hire students to ghostwrite their books for them. Even when the ghostwriters commit plagiarism, no discipline is imposed on the professors.
In the face of such nonsense by Harvard administrators, Harvard students have stepped up.
One group of students took a scholarly approach.
In 2004 they started the Harvard Plagiarism Archive, a blog with exhaustive coverage of the Harvard ghostwriting scandals and extensive e-mail exchanges with leading academics around the nation.
[photo of front page of blog]
Another group of students took a humorous, though still biting, approach.
Members of the Harvard Law School Drama Society prominently featured Tribe and Ogletree in their 2005 parody show (staged each March before an audience of thousands).
For example, listen to Tribe and Ogletree battle at a charity auction for the rights to a ghostwritten manuscript.
[roughly 35-second audio clip]
Listen to how Ogletree and Tribe, in publishing still more material written by others, are too inept to successfully conceal their plagiarism.
[roughly 35-second audio clip]
Finally, listen to how Tribe explains in song, to his toady — 3rd-year-law-student Dan Richenthal — the secret to his success, to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
“I’m Larry Tribe”
Words by Jamie Auslander, Jeremy Blachman, Taylor Dasher, Andi Friedman, Rebecca Ingber, and Justin Shanes
Based on “I Will Survive” by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris
Dan Richenthal, Tribe’s toady, as himself
Just joking. Dan Richenthal lacks the sense of humor for this role.
Ari Ezra Waldman played the role of Tribe toady Dan Richenthal, aka Dan Rich-in-All-Who-Hate-Him
as Larry Tribe
[Dialogue of Laurence Tribe losing in the professors’ poker game, and is forced to retire to the Loser’s Lounge]
(Dialogue of Tribe having a discussion with student Dan Richenthal who, after making various brown-nosing remarks, asks, “seriously, how do you do it?,” which launches Tribe into song)
At first I was afraid
I was petrified
I had nothing new to write
I thought my muse had died
But then I opened up a book
And copied down the words I saw
My fatal flaw
And who would know I broke the law?
For nineteen years
I wasn’t caught
I made a killing on my books
Assigned in every class I taught
It would have never been revealed
The Weekly Standard wouldn’t see
I would still be at the top
If not for stupid Ogletree!
(Duncan Kennedy, praising Tribe)
He studied math, he studied law
And he’s the most prolific scholar
That the whole world ever saw!
He’s drafted foreign constitutions
He’s the president of Spain!
In the book they say he copied
He thanked Clinton aide Ron Klain
(Greek chorus, mocking Tribe)
Because he’s Tribe
He’s Larry Tribe
He’s not just Harvard’s best professor
He’s the smartest man alive!
No matter what the rumors say
He is the marshall of today
Because he’s Tribe
He’s Larry Tribe! (Hey hey)
When the students choose their bundles
They all beg for me
For who else here mixes con law
And oh I spent so many years
Defending sodomy and choice
I took on all the liberal fights!
Bush versus Gore
That one I blew
My dreams of Justice Tribe are gone
Professor Tribe will have to do
It’s been my dream since I could sit
To wear the robe that’s black and long
But those old ladies in Miami
Got the whole election wrong!
(Elena Kagan, lauding Tribe)
He’s ten feet tall!
He learned to fly!
And though he’ll never be a Justice
He’s never gonna die
He is the sultan of Sudan
He is the closer for the Sox
And the legal fees he charges
Make him richer than Fort Knox!
(Members of Greek chorus lift Tribe on their shoulders, his legs straight and arms extended to his side, as if being crucified)
He’s Jesus Christ!
He’s Larry Tribe
Not just Harvard’s best professor
But the smartest man alive!
He’s got forty-one degrees
He speaks fluent Japanese
He’s Larry Tribe
He’s Larry Tribe!
[zoom in on photo of end of live performance, with Tribe surrounded by his lackies]
“Famous people can be the object of biting parodies, and usually they refrain from mentioning those parodies so as not to bring attention to them.”
Robert Sibley, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 6/1/2005 (commenting on Tribe)
Shortly after the parody wrapped, in an e-mail to his class Tribe said he heard there was “some pretty funny stuff” in the parody about him, but he didn’t understand “the business of my supposedly copying some passages from somebody else’s work without sufficiently crediting the original author.”
The next day, during class Tribe joked that he wasn’t able to attend the parody because he’d been in Sweden accepting two Nobel prizes and was also busy fending off allegations that his new book, “Saving Private Ryan,”somehow infringed on a movie Steven Spielberg had once done.
Given Tribe’s clarification that it wasn’t him, but instead his ghostwriter, who had copied the passages in question, the Drama Society took the unprecedented step of retracting the “I’m Larry Tribe” parody.
It launched a website in which Frumpy the HLS Clown (a parody character) explained the reasons for the retraction and substituted a brand-new parody, one giving equal time to all the Harvard plagiarists.
It’s called “Harvard Plagiarist Heaven.”
Shortly after the website launched, Frumpy delivered a note to Professor Tribe (care of his toady, Dan Richenthal) offering a constructive alternative to “you and your research assistants continu[ing] to face ridicule on account of the fact that you have said virtually nothing about the specific circumstances leading to the similarities between your 1985 book and Prof. Abraham’s 1974 book despite being given six months to comment, and then in your email about the Parody you backed off what little you said last September about taking ‘full responsibility’ . . . .”
“[W]ouldn’t be better for all concerned for you and everyone who helped you on the 1985 book to each promptly issue a detailed statement explaining all the circumstances, and each be available for interviews by the three newspapers which have expressed the most interest in this story . . . .?”
“If professors at Harvard Law School, and their research assistants, are not willing to be fully transparent about how the professors’ scholarly work is produced, and answer questions from legitimate journalists about it when it is brought into question, what does that say about the institution?”
Frumpy urged full transparency to ensure that that “there will be no suggestion of a coverup or code of silence on these vital matters, and perhaps this whole set of circumstances will serve as a lesson and warning to others (both professors and research assistants)
in the future.”
Frumpy the HLS Clown invited a response from Professor Tribe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To date, none has been forthcoming.
The Clown Abides.
[cut to music from the end of the live performance, winding down into next scene]
You can enjoy the “Harvard Plagiarist Heaven” parody, a parody which the Drama Society ghostwrote for Tribe called “I’m a Compiler,” and other parodies, at Harvard Parody:
[zoom in on photo of front page of old Harvard Parody blog]
All facts set out in this video are documented at:
Harvard Clown School
[zoom in on photo of front page of Harvard Clown School blog]
Harvard Plagiarism Archive
[zoom in on photo of front page of Harvard Plagiarism Archive blog]
[drawing of Frumpy the Harvard Law School Clown; zoom in on his odd-looking hair]
[dissolve into photo of someone with Frumpy-like hair who turns out to be, in zooming out – gosh! – Laurence Tribe, pontificating before the U.S. Supreme Court; fade to black]