So much for tonight’s GOP message of “Make America safe again” owning the news cycle. Cable news and social media instead were focused on the story of striking similarities between Melania Trump’s speech Monday night at the RNC and the one Michelle Obama gave at the 2008 Democratic convention.
“There is no university in America that would not rule this as plagiarism,” MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell said on air tonight after his cable news network played snippets of Trump’s speech interspersed with Obama’s from eight years ago. Watch CNN’s mash-up of the duelling speeches above.
Meanwhile, Fox News was completely ignoring the story, focusing instead on other RNC speeches, security at the event as such. At 10:40 PM, as the story was blowing up, FNC replayed Trump’s speech in its entirely, without acknowledging the controversy.
CNN led its 10 PM news hour with the controversy, posting some of Trump’s speech side-by-side with Obama’s:
Its panel went on to use the “P-word” repeatedly, as the talking heads picked apart the controversy — all except Katrina Pierson, Trump’s official national spokeswoman. She kept a brave face while accusing the media of attacking Donald Trump’s character.
The Trump campaign released a statement before 11 PM PT that did praised Melania Trump’s speech while stressing that she didn’t write it. “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,” said Jason Miller, senior communications adviser to the Trump campaign. “Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success.”
Contrast that with this: Earlier in the day, as the Trumps’ plane sat on the tarmac at Cleveland airport, Today co-host Matt Lauer interviewed Donald and Melania Turmp about her then-impending speech. In a snippet released to the media, Lauer asked him, “Did you go over the speech with you?” — before turning to her, touching her arm and asking, “Did you practice it on the plane?” She replied: “I read once over it, and that’s all, because I wrote it — with as little help as possible.” Watch a clip from Lauer’s interview below.
At about 9:15 PT, Brian Williams on MSNBC teased a commercial break like this: “When we come back — the first hints, the first whiff of a problem found with some of what Melania Trump had to say to this convention tonight.” They came back with the first video compilation of the two speeches — what Williams called the first rudimentary edit of the passages. “By the time most Americans wake up tomorrow morning, this will likely be a thing.” Rachel Maddow nodded in agreement.
Here is the language in question; you be the judge:
Trump: “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 because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreamsand your willingness to work for them.”
Obama: “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 saying you’re going to do, that you treat people with dignity and respect … 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 dream and your willingness to work for them.”
O’Donnell pressed the issue after MSNBC played the clips. “Melania Trump could not possibly have known that this was plagiarism, but the speechwriters certainly did,” he said. “In the second passage that we played there, sequentially, 22 words out of 26 words that Melania Trump spoke were taken directly — word for word — from Michelle Obama’s words. That’s 22 out of 26. That’s an overwhelming, just incontrovertible case of plagiarism. In the previous passage, 29 words were identical, with about six words slightly changed.”