Well, this is certainly weird.
One of the more uplifting sections in Melania Trump’s convention speech Monday night was virtually identical to a passage from Michelle Obama’s convention speech in 2008.
Here's the key moment in Trump’s speech:
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 me to show the values and morals in my daily life. That is the lesson that I continue to pass along to our son.
And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. [Cheering] 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's a similar passage from Obama’s speech in 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 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.
This side-by-side video drives home how closely the two overlap:
So that's pretty blatant, right? pic.twitter.com/EPnHME7afV— Mike Hearn (@mikehearn) July 19, 2016
The copying is too extensive to be a mere coincidence, which is why so many people are calling it plagiarism. The fact that the plagiarized lines are about the value of "hard work" just makes it all the more striking.
The similarities were first pointed out by Jarrett Hill on Twitter.
CORRECTION: Melania stole a whole graph from Michelle's speech. #GOPConvention— Jarrett Hill (@JarrettHill) July 19, 2016
WATCH: https://t.co/8BCOwXAHSy pic.twitter.com/zudpDznGng
There’s no explanation (yet) for how this happened. Before the speech, Melania Trump told NBC's Matt Lauer: "I wrote it ... with as little help as possible."
VIDEO: Before plagiarized #RNCinCLE speech, Melania told Today show: "I wrote it with as little help as possible" https://t.co/4p5NZTj6k4— Ben N. Petersen (@BenNPetersen) July 19, 2016
Earlier, CNN had reported that Melania had been working with a speechwriter "for the last five to six weeks, honing her speech."
Regardless of who actually wrote it, big speeches like these are typically vetted closely by staffers to avoid these sorts of snafus. James Fallows, a journalist and former White House speechwriter, points out that "This kind of speech-vetting is [the] most elementary sort of operational campaign competence." Clearly there was a huge organizational breakdown somewhere along the way.
Meanwhile, former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau points out an ironic wrinkle in all this:
Sarah Hurwitz, Michelle's head speechwriter, used to be Hillary's. So the Trump campaign plagiarized from a Hillary speechwriter.— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) July 19, 2016
Should also say that, like her husband, Michelle wrote a lot of that 2008 campaign speech herself.— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) July 19, 2016
Below is the Trump campaign's initial response to the flap. Instead of an explanation, it just says that Melania worked with a "team of writers" who "took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected their own thinking."
The Trump campaign just put out a statement on Melania's speech pic.twitter.com/JvJZKpQsjB— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) July 19, 2016
Update: The Trump campaign responded further on Tuesday
On Tuesday morning, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort told CNN it was "crazy" to think this was plagiarism. "There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech," he said. "These are common words and values — that she cares about her family, things like that. She was speaking in front of 35 million people last night; she knew that. To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy."
"There was a process, certainly, of collaboration," he added. "Certainly there's no feeling on her part that she did it. What she did was use words that are common words."
"Once again," Manafort said, "this is an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks to demean her and take her down." (Clinton, as best we can tell, has not yet said anything about this.)
By contrast, Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski argued that staffers were more likely to blame for this mess: "I think Mrs. Trump is a very smart, articulate woman. Her thoughts are her own thoughts. And I think if there was a mistake, it was at the staff level, and the staff should be held accountable."
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