Though the evening was rife with bombast, bigotry, and blunders, the episode dominating national headlines following the Republican National Convention’s (RNC) opening night was Melania Trump’s alleged plagiarism of a speech given in 2008 by future First Lady Michelle Obama.
“From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values and keep your promise. ,” Trump, the third wife of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, told the assembled delegates Monday evening. (Text bold for emphasis)
Trump continued: “They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son, and we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow, “
In comparison, Obama told the Democratic convention in 2008, “Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values, you’re going to do. …And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. .”
After the similarities were first pointed out on Twitter by journalist Jarrett Hill, the response by the Trump campaign evolved from denial to partial admission, though by Tuesday morning it remained unclear who would be held responsible for the “ripoff,” as MSNBC commentator Willie Geist put it.
Campaign chairman Paul Manafort rebuffed the accusations, telling CNN‘s “New Day” Tuesday morning that the lifted phrases are simply composed of “common words and values.”
Manafort went on to suggest that Melania Trump, who had never made a public speech on this level before, was alone responsible for its contents and further insinuated that somehow the womanhood of presidential rival Hillary Clinton was to blame for the firestorm.
“I mean, she was speaking in front of 35 million people last night,” Manafort continued. “She knew that. To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy. This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down.”
Later, Manafort told CBS‘ “This Morning” that the “fragments of words,” which included sentiments “like compassion, love of family, respect…are not words that are unique words, that belong to the Obamas.”
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When asked if the speech was vetted by any campaign officials, Manafort responded, “Sure, people looked at the speech, but frankly, this was her vision of what she wanted to communicate about her husband.”
Trump herself had told NBC‘s “Today” show earlier Monday that she wrote it “with as little help as possible.”
Contradicting those claims, campaign spokesman Jason Miller issued a statement early Tuesday which acknowledged the facts that Trump did not write the speech on her own and that some portions may have been borrowed.
“In writing her beautiful speech, Melania’s team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking,” read the statement.
Predictably, social media had a field day over the controversy. But, as the Guardian pointed out, this is not the first time a political figure was caught plagiarizing someone else’s words.
Further, as observers noted, in this case it follows a pattern set by the Trump campaign of ignoring truth and accountability while, at the same time, allowing the “onus” to fall on Mrs. Trump.
Mark Halperin, co-managing editor of BloombergPolitics, told MSNBC Tuesday that the campaign did a “huge disservice” to the candidate’s wife by allowing her to give the plagiarized speech.
“No campaign that had a full apparatus could possibly let something like this happen,” he continued, predicting that by by the end of the day Tuesday, “someone in the campaign’s going to take responsibility for this and have to leave…Not only for accountability, but also to take the onus off of her.”
And Slate‘s Josh Voorhees added: “Before reporters discovered the overlap with Michelle Obama’s remarks, many talking heads were gushing over Melania’s rather bland speech and using it as a way to further normalize a presidential candidate who is anything but normal. But now, when many voters are paying more attention to politics than they have all year, they’re tuning in to see not only a scandal, but one that the Trump campaign believes it can deny despite the very clear visual evidence to the contrary.”