Melania Trump appears to have plagiarized her speech at the opening night of the Republican National Convention from Michelle Obama’s address to the 2008 Democratic convention.
An entire section of Trump’s speech—focused on the values she and her husband share—appears to be lifted directly from Obama’s comments on the same subject eight years ago. Back then, Republicans claimed Michelle Obama wasn’t “proud” of her country; now Republicans defend her words when they’re coming out of Melania’s mouth.
The controversy capped a chaotic first day of the Republican National Convention. Monday started with Trump’s campaign attacking popular Ohio governor and former presidential challenger John Kasich as an “embarrassment” for not attending the convention in Cleveland. By afternoon, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was rallying people outside—until he was interrupted by a popular comedian asking the fringe radio host to “have sex with my wife.”
Not long after, a fight erupted on the convention floor, with anti-Trump delegates demanding a roll call vote before the RNC got underway. At another point, Rep. Steve King was on MSNBC suggesting white people are better than any “sub-groups.” By the evening, speaker after speaker recalled in the most minute detail the attacks on the U.S. compound in Benghazi.
Then Melania took the stage and repeated almost line-for-line what Michelle said in 2008:
“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,” Melania said [emphasis added]. “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 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.”
Here’s Michelle eight years ago:
“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.”
The Trump campaign didn’t acknowledge the plagiarism allegation when it first surfaced.
“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,” spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement late Monday. “Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success.”
But by 1:30 a.m., the campaign finally addressed the plagiarism—and attacked Hillary Clinton.
“This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton she’ll... take her down,” campaign manager Paul Manafort told CNN. “It’s not going to work.”
By 7:30 a.m., Chris Christie offered a more qualified defense of Melania’s speech when the Today show asked him if it was plagiarism.
“Not when 93 percent of the speech is completely different than Michelle Obama’s speech,” he said. “They expressed some common thoughts.”
The idea that any Republican would share “common thoughts” with Michelle Obama would’ve shocking to the GOP until last night. Republicans went ballistic when the future First Lady told a crowd of voters in Feb. 2008:
“For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback,” she said.
The Obamas subsequently explained that what she meant was that she was thrilled to see Americans turning out to vote, but the meme that the Princeton and Harvard Law grad was a crypto-black militant had stuck.
To take but one example from Glenn Beck in 2012: “This is who they are. They’re anti-colonialists. They believe America has oppressed the rest of the world.”
Trump himself used Joe Biden’s plagiarism scandal to question Obama's running mate in 2008, telling Wolf Blitzer, “You know, he's also been involved in pretty big controversy like plagiarism in college and various other things. That's a pretty big statement. So perhaps you change over a period of time. But when you plagiarize, that's a very bad statement.”