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Something doesn’t smell right about the Elizabeth O’Bagy “résumé lie”

As I have said repeatedly, this is not a political blog. I have political views; this blog is not the proper forum for them. If St. John Chrysostom is incorrectly cited in support of apparently neo-conservative values, it doesn’t matter what I may or may not think of the values he’s being credited with; if he didn’t say it, it matters that we not quote him as saying it. At the same time, if he’s incorrectly cited in support of some really nice sentiments about marriage, again, it doesn’t matter how universally positive these views might or might not be seen as being in our day; if he didn’t say it, don’t quote him as saying it. What matters is not politics, but accuracy and truth.

Along those lines, it matters when somebody claims to have credentials that, upon closer inspection, seem to be somewhat misrepresented. However, it also matters when somebody is accused of lying about credentials but, upon closer inspection, it seems that there is perhaps more to the story. In neither case does it matter much whether I agree or disagree with the views of the person in question; what matters is nipping the misrepresentation in the bud.

I have not read any of Elizabeth O’Bagy’s writing on the Syria situation or heard any of her commentary on CNN. I had never heard of her before the story surfaced this morning about her alleged inflation of her credentials, and immediately something seemed off. Every story seemed to suggest something different about just what her status actually is — is she ABD? Has she defended but has not yet been hooded? 26 isn’t completely unheard of for finishing one’s PhD, not if one goes straight through everything, and one of the possibilities with respect to her Masters being awarded in 2013 is that her department doesn’t award a terminal Masters but it’s awarded at the same time that you complete the PhD requirements. That’s not entirely unlike how History does it at IU.

In any event, I’d be really surprised if somebody who works for a DC think tank would be able to just lie about a PhD from Georgetown and get away with it. That may be naive on my part, but this really seems fishy to me.

So, did Elizabeth O’Bagy lie about a PhD from Georgetown? Internet Archive shows the following on her staff website for the Institute for the Study of War:

She is in a joint Master’s/PhD program in Arab Studies and Political Science at Georgetown University and is working on a dissertation on women’s militancy… She holds a bachelor’s degree in the Arabic Language and Arab Studies from Georgetown University.

That’s from January, and it seems to be the same up through June. So, if she was lying about it, she wasn’t lying about it until after June. It seems more likely to me that it was her employers who trumped up her credentials, doing so for their own purposes, and then they turned her loose for their own purposes with this as the excuse.

That said, this isn’t a closed case for me at all. If she didn’t, in fact, lie about her credentials, then something else is going on here, something not right. Maybe her views are such that this is a good outcome regardless; greater minds than mine must judge that. Still, if she did lie about her PhD, then I wash my hands of the matter. I know too many people who have worked too hard to actually earn those damn letters to let that pass.

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5 Responses to “Something doesn’t smell right about the Elizabeth O’Bagy “résumé lie””


  1. 1 Former ISW Intern 14 September 2013 at 1:22 am

    As someone who knew her, I can confirm that she did in fact claim to be in a joint MA/PhD program. She even described her “doctoral thesis” about women’s militancy. I do not know whether she ever claimed to have achieved a PhD; the only source for that claim appears to be Kim Kagan at ISW. When I knew her, she was still in graduate school.

    However, Georgetown has apparently said Bailey has never been enrolled as a PhD student, so at the very least she appears to have been lying about that. It’s a shame really, as she is a dedicated and extremely talented researcher, PhD or not.

    • 2 Richard Barrett 14 September 2013 at 9:28 am

      Thanks for commenting — yes, the old staff page says she was in a joint MA/PhD program, as quoted, working on the dissertation you describe. At least in yesterday’s initial reports, that didn’t seem to be in question. The question I was asking was, who was it who actually claimed she had a PhD?

      But now, yes, it seems that whether or not she was in a PhD program to begin with is iffy. It still seems to me there’s more to this story; the question is really quite cliched — what did ISW know about her status and when did they know it?

  2. 3 John Smith 17 September 2013 at 12:04 pm

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/16/embattled-syria-expert-was-never-in-phd-program.html

    It is now being reported that she has admitted to not having been accepted into the PhD program and only being in the MA program.

    • 4 Richard Barrett 17 September 2013 at 11:14 pm

      Yes, so it would seem: “I should have immediately told them when I didn’t get into the PhD program,” O’Bagy says, saying she let the Institute think she was enrolled in a dual masters and PhD program, which had been her goal. “I was really ashamed, really embarrassed. I’d always been top of my class, in high school, at Georgetown [undergraduate]. I’d never failed before.”

      Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/09/17/the-rise-and-fall-of-elizabeth-obagy/#ixzz2fDLBCeXW

      That’s enough for me. Hang her.

      As I tell my students, when I finish my PhD I will probably force random people on the street to call me “Dr. Barrett” on pain of a barrage of bad puns; until then, don’t even joke, and learn quickly I’m neither “Dr. Barrett” nor “Professor Barrett”. Those titles are earned, period.

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