Sen. John Walsh said he "made a mistake" when he plagiarized portions of his Masters' thesis and dismissed possible affects of post-traumatic stress disorder possibly playing a role.
“I was going to the United States Army War College, I had to write a strategic research paper and I made a mistake,” the Montana Democrat said Friday on KMMS AM Radio in Bozeman , Mont.
“It was an unintentional mistake when I put the paper together,” Walsh said. “It was a 14-page paper. There were 96 citations that I identified in the paper. Some of those citations were identified incorrectly and some of the comments that I left in the paper I did not put a citation against. So I made a mistake on my paper. It was an unintentional mistake." Walsh, an Iraq war veteran facing a tough re-election fight, was appointed to serve out the remainder of the term of former Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who was tapped by President Obama to be the ambassador to China. Walsh was sworn in in February following Baucus’ confirmation.
The New York Times recently published a story that charged Walsh had plagiarized part of his master's thesis.
Eager to get the story behind him, the junior Montana senator stressed in the interview that the transgression happened a while ago and urged voters to focus on his record of service, including commanding an infantry battalion in Iraq in 2004 and 2005.
"It happened seven years ago," Walsh said. "But what I think is important for Montanans to look at is this is just one aspect of my entire career. I've served for 33 years in the Montana National Guard. I released all of my records to the public in January of this year, which show every officer evaluation report that I’ve received throughout my career. I received glowing ratings from my supervisors."
"So in the scope of this – not to say this is not an important issue – but this is not a life and death situation from my perspective," Walsh said.
Walsh said that when he attended the U.S. Army War College the pressure of having commanded a battalion in Iraq, as well as losing four soldiers and the suicide of another made it difficult to keep his mind on his studies.
“All those rockets and IEDs didn’t hit me, but as the commander of that unit, I am responsible for every one of those men and women,” Walsh said. “Everything good that happens in the organization was my responsibility, but so [too] everything that was bad was my responsibility. It weighed very heavy on me to lose four soldiers.”
“So when I went to the War College I was probably not in my best academic mind state to be doing that type of thing and made some mistakes on the paper while I was there,” Walsh said.
But Walsh dismissed the possibility post-traumatic stress disorder playing a role.
“One thing … I would really like to clear up is that I am in no way — no way — tying what I did to any type of PTSD,” Walsh said. “It had nothing to do with the mistake that I made. People are trying to say I may have said that. … That is not in any way what I meant or said.”
While he has been keeping a lower than usual profile in recent days despite the Senate debating a bill he sponsored – in part, to boost his re-election prospects – Walsh said he wants to get back to talking about issues that Montanans care about like creating jobs and helping veterans.
“I have made mistakes previously in life and more than likely I will make mistakes in the future, but I accept those mistakes and I am going to move on,” Walsh said.
The question now is whether voters will.