Spanish PM threatens legal action over plagiarism claims

Pedro Sánchez’s doctoral thesis is ‘a piece of rubbish’, says newspaper

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez: said the allegations were part of an attempt by parties on the political right to discredit him. Photograph:  Mariscal/EPA

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez: said the allegations were part of an attempt by parties on the political right to discredit him. Photograph: Mariscal/EPA

 

Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez has been forced to defend his academic record due to allegations that he plagiarised large sections of his doctoral thesis.

Media reports accuse the Socialist leader of copying previously published material during the writing of his thesis on Spanish economic diplomacy. He received a top cum laude grade for the work in 2012 from Madrid’s Camilo José Cela university.

“Ethically, the thesis is fraudulent and a piece of rubbish with no academic value whatsoever and which in other countries would cause the resignation of its author,” said an editorial published by ABC, which said it had carried out an exhaustive study of the thesis.

That newspaper charges that Mr Sánchez lifted material from other authors without quoting or attributing correctly, recycled a mélange of other published sources and re-hashed work of his own which had already been published.

ABC and fellow right-leaning paper Okdiario suggested a cabal of academics linked to the Socialist Party helped Mr Sánchez with his thesis by providing him with much of the material he allegedly copied.

The prime minister responded on Twitter on Thursday morning by saying that the allegations were “completely FALSE”. He also said he will take legal action “to defend my honour and dignity” if the accusations are not withdrawn.

In a lengthy statement posted on Facebook, he said the allegations were part of an attempt by parties on the political right to discredit him as a reprisal for his successful ousting of conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy in June.

“However much they try to disparage me, I remain proud of my university thesis,” he wrote.

Similar cases

The CVs of Spain’s politicians have come under unprecedented scrutiny in recent months as a spate of similar cases has emerged.

In April, newspaper reports charged that the former president of the Madrid region, Cristina Cifuentes, had obtained a master’s degree from a public university without attending classes or doing coursework. She eventually resigned, but only after a video was made public of her being questioned for stealing two pots of beauty cream from a shop.

On Tuesday, Mr Sánchez’s health minister, Carmen Montón, stepped down following revelations that she had plagiarised parts of the final thesis of a postgraduate degree she had taken.

Meanwhile, Pablo Casado, the new leader of the conservative Popular Party (PP), has been defending himself for months from claims that a master’s degree he received is riddled with irregularities.

One of the accusations Mr Sánchez has faced is that his thesis is difficult to access and not freely available to view. Journalists who have seen the document had to request to do so at the university’s library and under restricted conditions. Right-wing media have claimed this is an attempt by the politician to hide the document.

However, Mr Sánchez has promised to post the thesis on the internet today on Friday.

The case is an unwelcome distraction for the prime minister as his fragile government attempts to tackle a number of political challenges. On Thursday, congress backed his proposal to exhume the remains of dictator Francisco Franco from his mausoleum and bury them elsewhere.