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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Did Melania Trump plagiarize from First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 DNC?

It sure looks that way:

In her first major address before the nation on Mon­day night, Mela­nia Trump appears to have pla­gia­rized a num­ber of lines from first lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion. The pla­gia­rized pas­sages, in bold below, con­cerned the impor­tance of hard work and hon­esty.

“From a young age, my par­ents impressed on me the val­ues that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise; that you treat peo­ple with respect,” Trump told the thou­sands of Repub­li­can del­e­gates and assem­bled media on Mon­day night in Cleve­land.

In 2008, Mrs. Oba­ma said, “You work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat peo­ple with dig­ni­ty and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.”

Trump’s spouse also lift­ed a line about chil­dren from Michelle Oba­ma, say­ing, “We want our chil­dren in this nation to know that the only lim­it to your achieve­ments is the strength of your dreams and your will­ing­ness to work for them.” 

In 2008, Michelle Oba­ma said, “We want our chil­dren — and all chil­dren in this nation — to know that the only lim­it to the height of your achieve­ments is the reach of your dreams and your will­ing­ness to work for them.”

Empha­sis is Huff­Post’s.

The Trump cam­paign has been in dam­age con­trol mode over this scan­dal all morn­ing long, begin­ning with a 2 AM state­ment by a com­mu­ni­ca­tions aide who admit­ted that “frag­ments” of oth­er speech­es were incor­po­rat­ed into Mela­ni­a’s.

Top Trump oper­a­tive Paul Man­afort lat­er insist­ed that Mela­nia Trump had writ­ten the speech her­self (a claim so sil­ly that even oth­er Trump sur­ro­gates are refus­ing to repeat it), lame­ly argu­ing that it was an orig­i­nal com­po­si­tion.

“What she did was use words that are com­mon words,” Man­afort told CNN. “To think that she would do some­thing like that, know­ing how scru­ti­nized her speech was going to be last night, is just real­ly absurd.”

Absurd — and yet it hap­pened. As Jar­rett Hill said on Twit­ter, a “whole graph” of Michelle Oba­ma’s speech appears to have been pla­gia­rized.

And there’s more. For­mer Oba­ma speech­writer Jon Favreau point­ed out: “Sarah Hur­witz, Michelle’s head speech­writer, used to be Hillary’s. So the Trump cam­paign pla­gia­rized from a Hillary speech­writer.”

Iron­ic, isn’t it?

Speech­es can cer­tain­ly have sim­i­lar­i­ties to oth­er speech­es, includ­ing the use of the same words and phras­es. But in this instance, mul­ti­ple lines in close prox­im­i­ty were lift­ed, with only a few changes being made to each of the copied pas­sages, and no attri­bu­tion to the orig­i­nal source. That’s pla­gia­rism.

How did this hap­pen? Well, one plau­si­ble sce­nario is that some­body involved in putting the speech togeth­er decid­ed to go read or watch remarks giv­en in the past by can­di­dates’ spous­es at nation­al con­ven­tions, found Michelle Oba­ma’s much-laud­ed speech from 2008 in Den­ver, and used a tran­script of it to jump­start or enhance a draft of Mela­nia Trump’s speech.

The copied lines should have been detect­ed and scrubbed when the draft was proofed or checked, but evi­dent­ly such con­trols weren’t in place.

RNC Chair Reince Priebus said this morn­ing that he would “prob­a­bly” fire the per­son respon­si­ble for prepar­ing the speech, were it his deci­sion.

Per­haps Trump’s right hand man Paul Man­afort does­n’t want to do so because the per­son respon­si­ble — Rick Gates — is a bud­dy of his.

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4 Comments

  1. Excel­lent sum­ma­ry of what can only be called what it is: inex­cus­able. Maybe Don­ald Trump’s habit of wing­ing it from the podi­um made his speech­writ­ers lazy. Maybe Don­ald’s glib abil­i­ty to lie and fal­si­fy data seeped into the speech­writ­ers’ own habits and allowed them to just “bor­row” lan­guage, assum­ing Trump could just deny the pla­gia­rism. Peo­ple believe what they want to believe, regard­less of the facts. It is a sur­re­al time in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. So much at stake yet the GOP is stag­ing a Potemkin Vil­lage of a Pres­i­den­tial Con­ven­tion to select a neo-dic­ta­tor to be their par­ty’s leader and com­pete to be our nation’s leader. It defies belief but it is true.

    # by Rep Gael Tarleton :: July 19th, 2016 at 8:45 AM
  2. Total­ly Bizarre! Very iron­ic con­sid­er­ing from what I’ve heard, this is one of the most caus­tic con­ven­tions from a stand point of dia­logue.
    It’s fair­ly com­mon at a par­ty con­ven­tion to ham­mer the oppo­si­tion, but this has one has gone much fur­ther.
    My guess is that since Mela­nia was sup­posed to voice the con­cil­ia­to­ry note, they want­ed a broad­er mes­sage. It would make sense to include Demo­c­ra­t­ic ideas. So yes, Andrew, I think your the­o­ry is cor­rect. I’ll tell you this, it’s a lot more fun when they blun­der.

    # by Mike Barer :: July 19th, 2016 at 2:52 PM
  3. Proof Democ­rats are igno­rant not to men­tion many peo­ple through­out his­to­ry used the same state­ment go back to school and get a real edu­ca­tion

    # by J :: July 19th, 2016 at 6:10 PM
  4. Decades ago, when I was a grad stu­dent and had to teach a sec­tion of a lec­ture course, two kids used the same library book to pla­gia­rize from for their essays, of course with­out giv­ing the source. I hap­pened to have been famil­iar with the source, so when they protest­ed my accu­sa­tion, I told them the name of the book and the author, and the pages they had copied. Then I “explained” that the nor­mal penal­ty for pass­ing off some­one else’s work as one’s own was an F for the course and sus­pen­sion or dis­missal from the uni­ver­si­ty. That’s not what I exact­ed from them — it was a fresh­man course — but I won­der what the equiv­a­lent could be in the Ms. Trump case? Con­demn­ing the lack of integri­ty of who­ev­er wrote her speech and dis­miss­ing that per­son would seem appro­pri­ate. But Trump is “loy­al” to his lap­dogs, and even not like­ly to think that there is a prob­lem.

    # by Eline Phelps :: July 20th, 2016 at 12:02 AM