This week saw the the Republican National Convention (RNC) take place in Cleveland, during which delegates from the US Republican party choose their nomination for President and Vice President of the United States. This year’s Republican candidate is none other that Donald J. Trump, an American businessman and TV personality with some controversial views.
Donald’s wife of 11 years Melania Trump, a model originally from Slovenia, had to give the most important speech of her life on Monday to support her husband’s campaign and her opportunity to serve as First Lady.
She was introduced by Donald, who made a slightly over the top entrance including smoke machines and the Queen rock anthem “We are the Champions”. Donald Trump, being the eloquent public speaker that he is, opened with the line, “We are gonna win so big”.
The real controversy began when Melania took to the stage to deliver her address. People on Twitter started to notice that certain lines of Melania’s address almost directly mirrored some from Michelle Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech back in 2008 when Barack was the candidate.
“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.”
“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.”
“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 hard for them.”
They do sound pretty similar. In an interview with MSNBC, Melania claimed to write most of the speech herself. She claimed to only have read over it once before the address stating “ I wrote it with as little help as possible. I’m excited.”
However, after the speech on Monday night a representative of the Trumps defended the speech saying, “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”.
The New York Times referred to it as “an entirely preventable blunder, committed in front of an audience of 23 million television viewers, that exposed the weaknesses of an organisation that has long spurned the safeguards of a modern presidential campaign, such as free software that detects plagiarism”.
Matt Latimer, a political speech writer, said “It just shouldn’t have happened. This was an easy homerun speech: a successful, attractive immigrant talking about her husband.”
Social Media Reacts
So what was the online reaction to the wife of a Republican nominee borrowing words from that of the Democratic current First Lady?
Twitter did what Twitter does best and injected a bit of humour into the situation. The hashtag #MelaniaTrumpQuotes began trending, with Twitter users poking fun at the plagiarism by posting famous quotes and attributing them to Melania. The quotes include famous lines spoken by Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr, as well as popular song lyrics.
— Zach Schurmann (@zachschurmann) July 19, 2016
Ah, the wonders of social media!
The Adorescore for the comedic hashtag #MelaniaTrumpQuotes is -12, with the main high intensity emotions being loathing and grief, as the public express their disbelief about the mishap.
The team of data scientists at Adoreboard used their leading emotional analytics software to analyse the emotions from the full transcripts of both Melania Trump and Michelle Obama’s national convention speeches.
The findings showed that top three high intensity emotions from Melania’s speech were ecstasy, admiration and vigilance. Her speech had a high focus on wide topics that her husband has been focusing on, like ‘Country’ and ‘America’.
The top three high intensity emotions in Michelle’s speech were ecstasy, admiration and loathing. Michelle’s speech focused on more personal topics than Melania’s, such as ‘People’ and ‘Family’. Although both speeches were positive in tone, the presence of loathing in Mrs Obama’s speech could come from her references to the illness and passing of her father, and to the continued inequality that she hoped that her husband would have a hand in rectifying.
The analysis below shows the similarities in emotion between the speeches of Melania Trump (Content B) and Michelle Obama (Content A).
Response from Camp Trump
The people from the Trump campaign released a letter from Meredith McIver, a speech writer from the Trump Organisation explaining the situation.
“In working with Melania on her recent First Lady speech, we discussed many people who inspired her and messages she wanted to share with the American people. A person she always liked is Michelle Obama. Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have cause Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs Obama. No harm was meant.”
The response has confirmed the plagiarism claims and has also made it clear that it was Melania who first lifted the words from Michelle Obama’s speech. The Trump campaign team most likely released the letter to put an end to the controversy but the letter has defended Melania poorly and placed her at the center of the scandal.
What does this mean for Trump’s campaign? We can only wait until November…I’m afraid to look.