A Democratic group has unearthed a bit of inspirational autobiography on Senator Scott Brown’s official website that was lifted verbatim from a 2002 campaign speech by Elizabeth Dole.
In a message to students, the senator uses the exact language as remarks delivered by the former North Carolina senator at her campaign kickoff and contained on her own website…. “I was raised to believe that there are no limits to individual achievement and no excuses to justify indifference,” said the message from Brown, which was removed later yesterday. “From an early age, I was taught that success is measured not in material accumulations, but in service to others. I was encouraged to join causes larger than myself, to pursue positive change through a sense of mission, and to stand up for what I believe.” Aside from the omission of an opening line — “I am Mary and John Hanford’s daughter” — in Dole’s speech, the Bay State Republican’s language is the same throughout.
Brown’s staff has admitted that the words belong to Dole, and they claim that they appeared on Brown’s site as a result of a “staff level” technical error. The copied words have been removed from the site. Very, very sloppy.
I have to say, though, I’m not totally convinced by Brown spokesman John Donnelly’s explanation for what happened. Here’s what he told the Globe:
“Senator Dole’s website served as one of the models for Senator Brown’s website when he first took office. During construction of the site, the content on this particular page was inadvertently transferred without being rewritten,” Donnelly said. “It was a staff level oversight which we regret and is being corrected.”
Hmm. If the content really was “inadvertently transferred,” how is it that the line “I am Mary and John Hanford’s daughter” didn’t make it over? If a whole bunch of content was accidentally brought over from Dole’s site, someone at some point must have seen the “daughter” line, and deleted it since obviously it was a mistake. But having done so, shouldn’t that have set off alarm bells that something was wrong with the content on that page? It’s hard to think of way in which somehow the first line of Dole’s speech was conveniently not transferred over while the rest of it was copied, all inadvertently.
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to see the copied words in context, so I went to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to see if there was a capture showing the copied language in Brown’s bio. But I discovered something quite curious: Scott Brown’s official website cannot be crawled, because it has a special file, called “robots.txt,” that disables web crawlers from accessing its pages.
So there is no publicly-available internet archive of Brown’s site. [SEE UPDATE BELOW] The only exception is made for Google’s crawler (called gsa-crawler, for “Google Search Appliance”), which is permitted to crawl the “/public” areas of the site.
Brown is not the only Senator who prohibits web crawlers, though he is in a distinct minority. The following other Senators also have disabled web crawlers via a robots.txt file: Alexander (R-TN), Begich (D-AK), Chambliss (R-GA), Cornyn (R-TX), McConnell (R-KY), Murkowski (R-AK), Pryor (D-AR), Roberts (R-KS), Shelby (R-AL), and Warner (D-VA). Off the top of my head, I can’t come up with any common thread that unites those Senators and that would explain why they, but not the rest of the Senators, refuse to allow web crawlers access to their websites. Very odd.