HELENA, Mont. » The U.S. Army War College revoked Democratic Sen. John Walsh‘s master’s degree after an investigation completed Friday concluded that he plagiarized a research paper required to graduate.
The college assigned an academic review board to the probe in August after The New York Times published a story showing Walsh borrowed heavily from other sources for the paper he wrote in 2007.
Walsh was pursuing a master of strategic studies degree at age 47, a year before he became Montana’s adjutant general overseeing the state National Guard.
The board of the Carlisle, Pennsylvania-based college took less than a day to hear the case and make its findings Aug. 22. But the process of appeal and review wasn’t completed until Friday.
"The board found that then Colonel John Walsh did commit the offense of plagiarism and thus his Master’s Degree and status as graduate of the U.S. Army War College should be revoked," War College spokeswoman Carol Kerr said in a statement.
The review board’s report found the plagiarism "egregious." A review of Walsh’s paper by the school’s director of communicative arts found little, if any, original language or research and that it was "primarily composed of verbatim liftings from other sources" presented as if they were Walsh’s own work.
"In short, the paper was plagiarized and … the plagiarism was intentional," the review board said in its report.
Walsh’s office released a statement saying the senator disagrees with the findings but accepts the college’s decision.
"I apologize to all Montanans for the plagiarism in my 2007 paper, and I am prepared to live with its consequences," Walsh said in the statement. "I may not be a scholar, but I am proud to have been a soldier who has served Montana and this great nation for 33 years in uniform."
His spokeswoman said he was not available for further comment.
Walsh dropped out of the Nov. 4 Senate race after the report about plagiarism. He remains in the Senate seat he was appointed to in February when Max Baucus resigned to become ambassador to China.
In August, Montana Democrats chose state lawmaker Amanda Curtis to replace Walsh as their candidate against Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Daines. Republicans need a net gain of six seats in November to take Senate control, and Montana is a prime target to pick up a seat that’s been in Democratic hands for more than a century.
Friday’s announcement isn’t likely to affect the Senate race, Montana State University political scientist David Parker said. "He’s gone, yesterday’s news," Parker said of Walsh.
Walsh spoke to members of the review board by phone the day before it convened in August. He admitted that he plagiarized the paper, but he said it was a mistake. Walsh also said he was taking medication for PTSD and that one of the soldiers he commanded in Iraq in 2005 had committed suicide in March 2007.
The review board noted that Walsh submitted several drafts of his paper, including before the suicide, and later submitted a version of the same paper for another class with the plagiarized passages intact.
The board said in its findings that other students have had similar or more serious issues during their time at the war college, but they were able to do the work "without resorting to plagiarism or other cheating."
Walsh appealed the decision on Oct. 6. War College Commandant Major Gen. William Rapp rejected the appeal in a letter dated Friday.
Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who appointed Walsh adjutant general, was among those who wrote a letter of support to the college’s review board. Schweitzer told The Associated Press on Friday that Walsh should be judged on "a lifetime of leadership" based on his three-decade rise through the National Guard and service in Iraq.
"That was the John Walsh I selected, not the John Walsh that was a literary scholar or a person who understood the nuances of grammar and putting things in quotations," Schweitzer said.
Brown reported from Billings.