Sheriff David Clarke denies plagiarism, calls reporter a 'sleaze bag'

Clarke claimed that he is an appointee of the Department of Homeland Security.

May 21, 2017, 2:14 PM
PHOTO: Milwaukee County, Wis. Sheriff David Clarke speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 18, 2016.
Milwaukee County, Wis. Sheriff David Clarke speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 18, 2016.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

— -- Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke -- who last week claimed that he was appointed to be an assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security -- is denying allegations that he plagiarized content in his 2013 master's thesis, while calling the reporter who broke the story a "sleaze bag."

CNN reported on Saturday night that Clarke, a controversial figure who has spoken out against the activist group Black Lives Matter and has been accused of human rights abuses by civil rights groups, lifted language from several sources in building his thesis at the Naval Postgraduate School.

The CNN report claims that Clarke footnoted his sources in the thesis, titled "Making U.S. security and privacy rights compatible," but failed to use quotation marks in places where he had used passages verbatim, which breaks with school guidelines.

The Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where Clarke earned a master's degree in security studies in 2013, confirmed on Sunday to the Associated Press that the allegations published on CNN are being reviewed. The school removed his thesis from its online archive on Friday, a school spokesman told the AP.

Clarke responded to the allegations in an email to his hometown paper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, by claiming that the story was partisan in nature.

"Only someone with a political agenda would say this is plagiarism," he wrote.

Clarke, who has been a vocal supporter of Trump on social media, and spoke on his behalf at the Republican National Convention last summer, disparaged Andrew Kaczynski, the reporter who broke the story, in several posts on Twitter.

"Guy is a sleaze bag," Clarke wrote in a post that linked to a story in which Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky pushed back against against a Kaczynski-authored story for Buzzfeed News, in which he was accused of using disputed quotes. "I'm on to him folks."

Clarke also referred to Kaczynski as a "hired gun" in a post in which he linked to a story published on a site called GotNews, which is run by conservative provocateur Charles "Chuck" Johnson.

Kaczynski on Sunday retweeted Clarke, and said that the sheriff had not addressed the issues raised in the story.

"Sheriff Clarke has yet to respond to the substance of our story," he wrote.

The Department of Homeland Security has not confirmed Clarke's appointment as assistant secretary.

Deaths in jail

Clarke's office has come under scrutiny over four deaths that have occurred in his jail since 2016, including an incident in which an inmate gave birth to a stillborn baby.

Among the most high profile incidents to take place in Clarke’s custody was the death of Terrill Thomas, a 38-year-old man who died of thirst in Milwaukee County Jail in April 2016.

Thomas was found dead in his jail cell nine days after he was arrested in connection with a shooting. The death was ruled a homicide, with dehydration the primary cause, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Clarke has not commented on the details surrounding Thomas' death, and issued a press release in September of 2016 citing an internal investigation of the case as the reason for his silence.

This month, a Milwaukee jury recommended criminal charges against seven Milwaukee County jail staffers in the death of Thomas, but ignored Clarke.

Clarke told, a non-profit organization focused on transparency, that the narrative surrounding the deaths that have taken place in his jail was formed as a result of political prejudice.

“This has everything to do with politics and my support of Donald Trump,” the sheriff told the website. “These people are invested in bringing me down.”

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