Melania Trump, wife of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, walks to the podium at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 18, 2016.
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Plagiarism controversy jolts Republican convention

At first blush, the strangest thing about Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention last night might have been her introduction. Donald Trump, standing in silhouette, with “We Are the Champions” playing in the background, created a spectacle that transformed the RNC stage into a WWE-style appearance. It was … odd.
7/19/16, 7:52 AM ET

Michelle Obama and Melania Trump lines: similarities side by…

A look at the sentences in Melania Trump’s RNC speech that were similar to First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech.
A look at the sentences in Melania Trump’s RNC speech that were similar to First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech.
But this was soon overshadowed by the fact that the possible future First Lady blatantly plagiarized the current First Lady in her remarks.
A chunk of Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech appears to have been lifted from Michelle Obama’s address at the 2008 Democratic convention. […]
A two-paragraph section of Trump’s speech about family values bears nearly identical phrasing to Obama’s 2008 address, which was seen as a breakout moment for the future first lady and a humanizing moment for her husband.
We’re not talking about a few words here and there that seemed similar; Melania Trump’s speech took whole sentences, at times word for word, from Michelle Obama’s speech eight years ago. There’s no ambiguity about the theft. (You can even play both simultaneously, and it works surprisingly well.)
And while it seems safe to assume that Trump did not write her own remarks, it doesn’t help that she told NBC’s Matt Lauer yesterday, in reference to the speech, “I read once over it, and that’s all. Because I wrote it … with as little help as possible.”
After journalists began noticing the problem and looking for some kind of explanation, Donald Trump’s campaign team issued a statement that was almost as baffling as the plagiarism itself: “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. Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success.”
How this is supposed to address the underlying controversy is a mystery.
It’s often hard to predict what the public will consider important, but as plagiarism controversies go, this is pretty brutal.
The New Republic’s Brian Beutler explained overnight, “[I]t’s just devastating to see a campaign premised on the imagined notion of Obama incompetence get caught stealing from Obama’s own operation…. [L]et’s not gloss over it, this is a depiction of a campaign – a campaign that nurtures white grievance and resentment – trying to profit off the work of a black woman, from an African American family that Trump and his supporters regularly belittle. The fact that the plagiarized text in question was about the value of hard work just makes matters worse. A mortifying, calamitous, self-immolating moment.”
It’s a critically important point. If Melania Trump had plagiarized some obscure passage from a largely unknown text, or perhaps a foreign politician unfamiliar to American audiences, this would still be a serious lapse in need of a credible explanation.
But for a Trump to steal from an Obama makes this incident even more egregious. For over a year, Trump World has insisted that Team Obama has nothing of value to offer. Evidently, like too many of its other claims, that wasn’t true, either.
Postscript: Let’s also not forget that this isn’t the first plagiarism controversy affecting Trump’s operation. Remember the materials published by the Trump Institute?