NBC Sports said Thursday that copy included in two feature stories presented during the May 6 telecast of the Kentucky Derby was plagiarized from NBC's hit program "The West Wing" by a freelance producer.
NBC, while not identifying the producer, admitted that plagiarism had occurred. "A young freelance producer wrote the copy, which, regrettably, made it on our air. The producer will not be working with us again," said NBC Sports spokesperson Alana Russo in a written statement.
The network, which regularly includes dramatic feature stories in its presentation of Triple Crown races, had a variety to choose from surrounding last week's edition of the Kentucky Derby. Michael Matz, trainer of Barbaro, who ultimately won the race, helped several children to safety after a plane crash in Sioux City, Iowa, 17 years ago. NBC told the story of the crash in its pre-race coverage.
Host Tom Hammond voice-overed the copy, which read in part, "(Matz) ran into the fire to save the lives of three children." Then, after a dramatic beat, Hammond continued, "Ran into the fire." Martin Sheen, who plays President Josiah Bartlet in "The West Wing," said in a 2002 episode that dealt with an explosion, "(Rescuers) ran into the fire to help get people out." He, too, took a dramatic beat before adding, "Ran into the fire."
After a second feature story, this one about trainer Dan Hendricks and jockey Alex Solis, who both suffered broken backs within two weeks of each other but recovered sufficiently to bring morning-line favorite Brother Derek to the Derby, Hammond read, "(The) funny thing about life is that every time we think we've measured our capacity to meet its challenges, we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless."
Sheen had said in "The West Wing:" "Every time we think we've measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless."
NBC will televise the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico Race Course in Maryland May 20. The June 10 Belmont Stakes will be shown on ABC.