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.