Melania Trump, Meet Scott McPlagiarist!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: File this away as another example of the response being worse than the original offense. CNN.com is running a front-page graphic comparing Melania Trump’s speech with Michelle Obama’s 2008 remarks.

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The big story swirling after yesterday’s Night 1 of the Trump Republican National Convention in Cleveland has a familiar ring:

Donald Trump’s campaign manager denied allegations Tuesday that Melania Trump plagiarized a Michelle Obama speech on the first night of the Republican National Convention, calling the accusation “just really absurd.”

Scott McInnis.

Scott McInnis.

…At least one passage in Trump’s speech Monday night plagiarized from Obama’s address to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.Side-by-side comparisons of the transcripts show the text in Trump’s address following, nearly to the word, the would-be future first lady’s own from the first night of the Democratic convention in Denver nearly eight years ago.

The denials are coming fast and furious from Camp Trump, but the words in question leave little doubt:

Here is Trump, on Monday:

“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. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son,” Trump said.

And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because 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.”

And here is Obama, on August 25, 2008:

“And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that 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.

And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and to pass them on to the next generation. Because 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.”

Melania Trump.

Melania Trump.

Prior to giving her speech last night at the convention, Melania Trump said unequivocally that she had written the speech with “as little help as possible.” Now that she’s accused of plagiarism, of course, it seems much more likely that the blame will fall on a subordinate speechwriter–even if that requires Melania to revise her claims of principal authorship. Given Donald Trump’s extreme reluctance to admit anything like a mistake, it’s likely that the story will go on far too long before the buck-passing even starts.

We of course recalled immediately the 2010 plagiarism scandal that effectively ended gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis’ campaign, following a similar arc from denial to the blaming of subordinates who cribbed the words attributed to McInnis “without his knowledge.” In both cases the audacity and degree of the plagiarism is quote shocking, and it’s hard to understand how it was carried out without any concerns that it would be discovered. We’ve even wondered in retrospect if the “researcher” helping McInnis had burned him on purpose.

Either way, it’s just…so sloppy. It amazes us to see it happen repeatedly at such high, or at least well-funded, levels.

25 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Duke Cox says:

    The entire Trump campaign is built on style, not substance…Paul Manafort is a prototypical, slimeball, political operator who is trying to sell a product that has offered nothing of value.  As I have said before, the Republican Party (no, not exclusively) left the truth lying face down in a ditch long ago. This is entertainment, my friends. PT Barnum identified their target audience 135 years ago.

  2. Pseudonymous says:

    Aside from the schadenfreude I'm enjoying as the TRUMP™ camp rushes around to deny reality yet again, I really don't think it's that big of a deal.  If she did cobble together the speech largely by herself (with some help from another speech she liked), I'm not particularly interested in punishing her for doing what normal people do every day– use other folks' words, which they feel but believe they can't adequately express themselves. She's not a politician, or a native English speaker, she's just someone's spouse trying to support them in the fiery heat of our political/media crucible. 

    • Duke Cox says:

      Of course, what you say is correct. And Melania delivered a competent address. When you look at the pieces side by side, though, it is hard to deny that the second was not inspired by the first, and edited to create the second by changing a few words and sentences. Though Melania is very bright and speaks five languages, English is not, obviously, her first language and I daresay she hasn't written extensively in English. If she did, in fact,  write it herself, she may not even have understood what plagiarism is….but someone should have read it and told her.

      • Pseudonymous says:

        Yeah, I think it's undeniably plagiarism.  My wife asked why someone hadn't read the speech and noticed the issue.  I told her that it could easily have been some intern too young or inexperienced to ask about its origins or to recognize the Obama speech from eight years ago.

        I definitely think someone let her down.  The campaign should have written the speech with her and there should have been no problems.  I would normally say that was the campaign's fault, and it well may be as we only have their word they didn't write the speech, but with the organization hardly existing and a candidate who thinks they're largely unnecessary anyway, it may have been her husband who failed to recognize the need to support her.

        Now, when Bill's speech inevitably goes off the rails, it'll all be on him smiley

        • mamajama55 says:

          I just don't think that the truth matters to the Trumps. At all. I commented yesterday that Melania's speech was very wooden and inauthentic, compared to other First Ladies' speeches.

          Now we know why. She had copied the gist of it from a successful first lady. Like many other very beautiful women who grew up poor, she probably suffers from a basic insecurity about who she is without her "looks".  She also knows that the Donald will probably trade her in for a younger, hotter wife when she starts to show her age, as he has done twice before. Hence, she plagiarized someone she probably covertly admires.

          That's my .02 psychoanalysis. I feel sorry for Melania. She has been thrust into a spotlight she is not ready for. And, I doubt if all the riches and comforts of being Mrs. Donald Trump can make up for….well, being Mrs. Donald Trump.

        • BlueCat says:

          It shouldn't have been some young intern for something this important. And political speech writers all say that everyone claims to have written most of their own speeches but in most cases it's written by pros and simply tinkered with a bit by the speech giver. They characterize these claims as polite fictions that everyone lets slide. A notable exception they mentioned is President Obama who has been the primary speech writer for some of his most notable speeches and is considered by the pros to be a great speech writer in his own right. It's highly unlikely that Melania really had more than the usual small amount of input into hers. 

          The fact that this is now a big story, along with the, granted, quickly put down resistance to Trump's candidacy is proof in and of itself that it was an unforced error. It was also noted that Melania's speech was devoid of any of the kind of personal anecdotes about her spouse that are usually included in this sort of speech to humanize the candidate. Nothing nefarious implied. Just a little odd and could very well be because she is a very private person.

          It has also brought on scrutiny of other aspects of Melania's life such as her apparently false claim to a university degree. None of it so far is a huge deal but it all adds up to more days talking about things they don't want to talk about instead of things they do want to talk about. And since they claim nobody did anything wrong when somebody clearly did, the story is hanging around longer, taking up more oxygen.

          And may I say…. boohoo.

  3. Diogenesdemar says:

    Climb into your way-back machine, and I think you'll find some ancient document (from maybe a month ago) which reported that the scamanuals and course scamaterials from Drumpf University were actually copied (stolen) wholesale from someone's previous work. 

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/30/us/politics/donald-trump-institute-plagiarism.html

    Donald Drumpf, the Art of the Steal

  4. DaftPunk says:

    It was surprising to hear someone born behind the iron curtain recounting tales of her family extolling hard work and equality of those with whom we disagree politically, when their social position was based on being party aparatchiks.

    • FrankUnderwood says:

      Her father was a member of the Yugoslav Communist Party. Who would have expected that the Party of Richard M. Nixon, Roy Cohn, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan would offer up the daughter of a Red as a potential First Lady?

      • BlueCat says:

        Let's not bring her father into it, shall we? I see you're probably trying to demonstrate that she was unlikely to have been brought up with these bromides but it's pretty clear the only reason Team Trump is sticking with the ludicrous explanation that no plagiarism is involved (according to a site that specializes in detecting plagiarism 16 matched words together is a one in a trillion something chance of not being plagiarism  and one of her matched segments was 23 words) is because that would mean admitting that Melania "misspoke" about writing the speech herself with only a little help. Following his usual pattern Trump is sticking with his usual …Who ya gonna believe, me or your lyin' eyes (and ears) …. approach. Melania's upbringing is beside the point.

        • Diogenesdemar says:

          I do think that Melania's upbringing may be a fair point . . . 

          . . . because apparently she was raised by Michelle Obama's parents?  Small world, huh?

          On tap and expected at tonight's episode of Drumpfapoolza – inspiring words and a message from  his daughter, Sasha, and his son, Malia.  Stay tuned. 

  5. (((JADodd))) says:

    More plagiarism?

  6. DaftPunk says:

    I'm sure the Obama speech writing team is annoyed, but don't forget about her more important plagiarization:

  7. itlduso says:

    Tweet from a guy named Bob Fisher:  Melania: "These accusations about my speech hurt not only me, but also hurt my children Sasha and Malia".

    Question: Is it possible for me to overdose on popcorn?

  8. waagosh says:

    Ha.  Nobody has so far stated she is not a dumb bimbo blonde (whatever her real color is).  I say she is not a dumb bimbo, she says she even has a degree from Hugoslavia.  Others say she partied out as a freshwoman and does not really have a degree.  Okay. So there is no evidence her CV is true.  She is a drumpian and can stretch things a bit to cover something any carny barker would be proud of.

    She did good quoting the First Lady.  So much so that you would think she wants to be a First Lady too.  Too bad about not being Trumps first.  Oh, well.

  9. Diogenesdemar says:

    Because there's no real quite like the surreal . . . 

    Donald Trump's spokeswoman says Melania Trump "wanted to communicate to Americans in phrases they have heard before" https://t.co/OEBe68uXQi

    — Sky News Tonight (@SkyNewsTonight) July 19, 2016

    • BlueCat says:

      OK. So not plagiarism. Just using somebody else's words that people have heard before. Which of course isn't plagiarism at all. Oh wait….  isn't that pretty much the definition of plagiaism?

      Either way, why didn't she and her speech writer choose phrases Americans had heard before from some Republican former first lady instead of from one of the Satanic Obamas. Nancy Reagan, perhaps? 

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        LOL. Well that is where it gets surreal.

        If you click on the video interview link in that tweet (it's no long, just a minute) you'll see the mental jujitsu and schizophrenia that it takes to be a Trump spokesmodel,  where everything is fabulous, and there’s never any wrongdoing, mistakes, or even missteps, and certainly never anything requiring apology or retraction, and where words have multiple meanings, or no meanings, or changeable meanings.  

        Apparently, the "logic" spewed here, during this interview, is somehow that Melania (who did not plagiarize) was speaking to the convention in her own words, in the familiar way "like Laura Bush, and like Elizabeth Dole" [by using Michelle Obama's speech]???

         

  10. mamajama55 says:

    Twilight Sparkle did not approve!

    RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer attempted to use a quote from the children's program "My Little Pony" to show that Melania Trump was only using "common words", not plagiarizing Michelle Obama's speech, in talking about "following one's dreams".

    But the actor who voices Twilight Sparkle, the dreamy pony in question, wasn't having it:

     Tara Strong, who voices Twilight Sparkle, also weighed in on the controversy: 

    This is not Pony Princess approved. I’m Twilight Sparkle & do not approve this message 😂 https://t.co/5DfshRzPJh

    — tara strong (@tarastrong) July 19, 2016

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