There must have been a lot of tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth going on today in the Trump camp over the media revelation “that multiple lines toward the end of the potential first lady’s speech bore a striking resemblance to a speech future first lady Michelle Obama gave in 2008.”
Regardless of whomever was responsible for the cribbed lines, the writing team, surely, should have carried out a comprehensive online check of every phrase in the transcript to ensure that none were part of a previous speech.
Nevertheless, the media frenzy around Melania Trump has also turned the spotlight on President Obama’s second-in-command, Vice President Joe Biden.
“Political insiders have long known about Joe Biden getting caught plagiarizing almost word-for-word a speech given by British Labour politician Neil Kinnock. In fact, that killed his 1988 presidential campaign.
“But a more serious plagiarism charge has been out there even longer — that he plagiarized in law school. That is something that can get you thrown out if proven.”
According to a New York Times article published September 17, 1987:
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democratic Presidential candidate, was accused of plagiarism while in his first year at Syracuse University Law School, academic officials familiar with Mr. Biden’s record said today.
Mr. Biden, who as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is presiding over the hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork, has called a news conference for 9 A.M. Thursday to discuss this charge and reports that he has lifted material from speeches by other politicians to use in his public addresses.
A Biden aide, who asked not to be identified, declined to comment on the plagiarism charge, saying Mr. Biden wanted to discuss it himself. ”It’s his life,” the aide said.
According to the people familiar with the record of the 44-year-old Senator from Delaware, he was called before the disciplinary body at the law school during his first year because of charges that he had committed plagiarism on a paper. Mr. Biden entered the school in 1965 and graduated in 1968.
CBS News tonight quoted an aide to Mr. Biden as saying he had been exonerated. However, an academic official said Mr. Biden had been found guilty, ”threw himself on the mercy of the board” and promised not to repeat the offense. This, according to the official, persuaded the board to drop the matter and allow Mr. Biden to remain in law school. Mr. Biden’s office declined to clarify the circumstances surrounding the case, saying the Senator had insisted on handling the matter himself at the news conference.
Joe Biden’s troubles apparently began after the New York Times reported that he had “appropriated, without attribution, the language of Neil Kinnock, the British Labor Party leader, to close a debate.”
Here’s what Biden and Kinnock said:
Kinnock said, according to The Sentinel: “Why I am the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? . . . Was it because our predecessors were thick? . . . Was it because they were weak, those people who could work eight hours underground and then come up and play football, weak? . . . It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand.”
Biden said, according to The Sentinel: “Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? . . . Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? . . . Is it because they didn’t work hard, my ancestors who worked in the coal mines of Northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours? . . . It’s because they didn’t have a platform upon which to stand.”
Melania Trump is being accused of cribbing words from Michelle Obama in two paragraphs in her RNC speech. According to Slate Magazine, “Biden’s misdeeds encompassed numerous self-aggrandizing thefts, misstatements, and exaggerations that seemed to point to a serious character defect.”
History.com says that Biden “even borrowed facts from “Kinnock’s life, stating inaccurately, for example, that he was the first in his family to go to college and that his ancestors were coal miners.” The History site also says that Biden was then accused of taking “passages from Robert F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, and he was caught on camera exaggerating his academic credentials.”
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the Malania/Michelle passages:
Melania Trump, speaking at the RNC:
“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. 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.”
Michelle Obama, speaking in 2008, at the Democratic National Convention:
“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.”
The similarities between Malania’s passages and those of Michelle’s is undeniable, but even so, nowhere near as word-perfect as those between Biden and Kinnock.
And President Barack Obama himself has been caught out lifting words from a 2006 talk by Governor Deval Patrick:
As in the Melania speech, it didn’t take long for someone to unearth a YouTube speech of a 2006 talk given by Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, says the site. Says Plagiarism Today, “In Patrick’s speech, he used many of the same quotes as well as very similar phrasing.” Obama said he shared ideas with Patrick, who defended him after the allegations were made, said Plagiarism Today.
There is, however, no proof that Obama had indeed shared ideas with Patrick, other than Patrick’s say-so after the YouTube copy was uncovered and picked up by the media.
And even if Barack Obama had shared ideas with Deval Patrich as he claimed, by not attributing the relevant quotes to Patrick, he was still committing plagiarism.
Rank dishonesty aside, the common denominator linking all of the above plagiarizers has to be sheer stupidity. How did any of them think they would get away with it in this day and age of millions of internet-surfers out there checking up on every word written or spoken in the public domain?