Melania versus Michelle: The Convention Speeches Compared

Melania Trump's speech: 6 famous moments in plagiarism

Donald Trump's campaign manager defended Meliania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech which contained two passages that appear to match exactly the speech first lady Michelle Obama gave at the 2008 Democratice National Convention.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, told CNN Tuesday that, "There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech. Certainly, there's no feeling on her part that she did it. What she did was use words that are common words."

He told The Associated Press, "There were a few words on it, but they're not words that were unique words. Ninety-nine percent of that speech talked about her being an immigrant and love of country and love of family and everything else."

While there has been no accusation that any part of the rest of the speech was not original work, the two passages in question are nearly word-for-word the same.

If the claim of plagiarism is true, Trump would join a list of other famous people caught passing off the work of someone else as that of their own.

Here are a few examples of plagiarism by other famous -- or nearly famous -- people.

1.  Joe Biden – The current vice president was running for the Democratic nomination for president in 1987 when it was discovered that he had been using parts of speeches by other politicians in his campaign stump speeches. It was revealed that Biden's speeches contained material from speeches by British Labor Party candidate Neil Kinnock, Robert Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy. With the material from Kinnock’s speeches, Biden took Kinnock’s life experiences and made them his own, substituting himself for Kinnock in the stories. When he was confronted with the plagiarism, he withdrew from the race for president. 

2. Vaughn Ward – Idaho congressional candidate Vaughn Ward was likely headed for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives when his ambition was derailed by plagiarism. He lifted liberally from Repbulicans in the House and Senate, but perhaps the most famous person he borrowed from turned out to be Barack Obama. Ward took Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, and, failing to source it, delivered parts of it verbatim as his own. Here’s an example:

Obama: "We stand on the crossroads of history"

Ward: "As we stand on the crossroads of history"

Obama: "We can make the right choices and meet the challenges that face us"

Ward: "I know we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that lay before us"

Obama: "If you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do"

Ward: "If you feel the same urgency and the same passion that I do"

Obama: "Then I have no doubt"

Ward: "Then I have no doubt"

Obama: "The people will rise up in November"

Ward: "That our voices will be heard in November"

Obama: "And this country will reclaim its promise"

Ward: "Our country will reclaim its promise"

It was later discovered that half of the position statements on Ward's website were copied from fellow Republican office holders.

3. Alex Haley – The author of “Roots,” was twice sued for of plagiarising several portions of the novel that became a best seller and spawned two network TV adaptations. Haley’s book, which follows seven generations of a family first brought to America as slaves, included passages from a book by Margaret Walker Alexander called “Jubilee” and concepts from another book called, “The African,” by Harold Courlander. Haley went to court with Alexander,  but did not have to pay damages. He settled out of court with Courlander.

4. Rand Paul – The Republican senator from Kentucky was accused in 2013 of using the uncredited work of others in his speeches, an article and one of the books he wrote. The book, the website Buzzfeed discovered, contained a passage nearly identical to a passage in a story in Forbes magazine. Paul said he made a mistake in crediting sources and did not intend to lift the material.

5. Johnny Cash – There have been several instances of musicians being accused of taking lyrics or melodies and making them their own. In 1955, Johnny Cash scored a huge hit with “Folsom Prison Blues. However, Gordon Jenkins thought he heard something familiar in the tune and sued Cash for ripping off his 1953 song, “Crescent City Blues.” Cash decided to settle the suit with Jenkins in 1968 for $75,000, a great deal of money at the time.

6. John F. Kennedy – The authorship of Kennedy’s book “Profiles in Courage,” has been questioned throughout the years. Many believed that Kennedy’s  speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen, wrote the book that the then future president would win a Pulitzer Prize for. A journalist in 1957 claimed on national TV  that Sorensen wrote the book, a claim that drew threats  of a lawsuit from Kennedy's father. According to historian Herbert Parmet, who wrote, “Jack: The Struggles of John F. Kennedy,” Kennedy oversaw the work on the book, and the themes in it were his, but he did not write it. Sorensen said in a 2008 book that he had written the first draft of the book. 

Sources: Plagiarism today; The Associated Press; Politico

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