Sep 29, 2010

The education of Christine O'Donnell

Did Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell lie about her educational background on a social networking website? Or was she merely the victim of the website's poor design?

Or have we all been duped - either by a malevolent prankster who wanted to embarrass O'Donnell or a careless do-gooder who failed to do his or her research?

Yesterday, after reading a Washington Post story that disputed the accuracy of O'Donnell's LinkedIn profile, specifically a claim that she'd attended the University of Oxford, I decided to check whether she had attended another school listed on the profile, Claremont Graduate University. A spokesman for the school said without hesitation that were no records of her attending classes or registering there as a student.

The implication, of course, was that O'Donnell had padded (i.e., lied on) her resume.A writer for the conservative RedState blog admonished the attack-dog media to withhold judgment, saying it had failed to take into account LinkedIn's quirky design:
Depending on when O’Donnell created her LinkedIn profile, at one point you could only enter educational programs that were in the LinkedIn system. And even today, you have to hard-code in the text for places like Claremont, which are not recognized Institutions or Companies, but exist only as search terms in their system.
The idea, I guess, is that O'Donnell or one of her staffers might have been flummoxed by the website's lack of options and unfriendly design and, as a result, mistakenly listed Oxford University and Claremont Graduate University under the education tab.

The argument lost any relevance, however, when O'Donnell's campaign contacted Washington Post writer Greg Sargent and told him flatly that the LinkedIn profile was a fraud. Her statement reads in part:
There have been reports that I have released false information on a LinkedIn profile under my name. This is categorically untrue. I never established a LinkedIn profile, or authorized anyone to do so on my behalf.
This would mean someone else created the online profile and misstated O'Donnell's educational background either on purpose or by mistake.

Talking Points Memo talked with the O'Donnell camp, which says it will investigate who created the profile. A campaign spokesman would not explain why the issue of the profile's authenticity wasn't raised in the first place.

It should be noted that Sargent did reach out to the O'Donnell campaign, as any good journalist would, before he published the initial story. The campaign did not challenged the profile's authenticity and instead tried to explain why the Oxford University listing was an innocent mistake.

O'Donnell's profile has 84 "connections" - meaning 84 people have chosen to link to her profile. It would interesting to know whether any of them have ever communicated with the profile's creator. Also, all LinkedIn profiles require a working email to get them established. I've asked LinkedIn if it would release the email address associated with this account, but I won't hold my breath.

Other stories about O'Donnell and her educational background are here, here and here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

She's a politician, therefore, she lies.