CLEVELAND — In 2008, Michelle Obama was in the position in which Melania Trump found herself on Monday night, pressed into service giving a speech making the case for her husband’s candidacy.

“Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values,” Obama said at the time, “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,” she continued, “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.”

A moving testament to values shared by two people, offering guidance to the audience on the other side of the camera. Or, maybe, shared by three people. Because as journalist Jarrett Hill noticed, Melania Trump’s speech at the 2016 Republican convention suggested that she was guided by the same values that guided Michelle and Barack Obama – basically verbatim. “You work hard for what you want in life.” “Your word is your bond.” And, of course, those lessons should be passed on to future generations.

Here’s Trump’s speech, as delivered:

“From a young age,” she said, according to prepared remarks, “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,” she said. “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.”

Even as Hill’s tweet rocketed around social media, Donald Trump tweeted his praise for her performance. “It was truly an honor to introduce my wife, Melania. Her speech and demeanor were absolutely incredible. Very proud! #GOPConvention.”

That said, prominent Trump defender Jeffrey Lord wasn’t willing to wave the issue away when asked about it on CNN, calling it a “serious thing.” That said, he then drew a stark comparison in Trump’s defense: “This is not Benghazi.”

Who’s to blame? In an interview with Matt Lauer, Melania said that she wrote the speech herself, with “[as] little help as possible.”

CNN’s Zach Wolf reported that Trump had been aided by a speechwriter and had been working on her comments for more than a month. That’s likely; for a big speech like this, speechwriters are customary. As noted by Stuart Stevens, who worked for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign — and who is no fan of Trump’s — the fault here primarily lies with whatever staffer should have vetted the speech.

The identity of that staffer is unknown. Similarities aside, it seems unlikely that it’s the same person that helped Michelle Obama write her speech eight years ago.

Early Tuesday, the Trump campaign issued this statement: “In 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.”

Later, the campaign hardened its defense of the speech, calling complaints of plagiarism “just absurd,” according to The Associated Press

Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort insisted no mistakes had been made and said the issue was “totally blown out of proportion.”

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

Manafort told CNN Mrs. Trump was aware of “how her speech was going to be scrutinized” and said any notion that she picked up portions of Mrs. Obama’s convention talk was “just absurd.” He also tried to blame Hillary Clinton.”I mean, this is, once again, an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down,” Manafort said. “It’s not going to work.”

The White House declined to comment on similarities between the two prime-time speeches, but the issue was likely to arise at the daily White House briefing.

 


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