Melania Trump controversy: A short history of political plagiarism

Would-be first lady joins cast of politicians accused of borrowing words of others

US vice-president Joe Biden speaking in Australia on Tuesday. In 1987, the then Delaware senator was accused of plagiarising a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, a huge embarrassment that helped scupper his presidential campaign. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

US vice-president Joe Biden speaking in Australia on Tuesday. In 1987, the then Delaware senator was accused of plagiarising a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, a huge embarrassment that helped scupper his presidential campaign. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

 

Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican convention bore more than a passing resemblance to that delivered by Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic convention. In following very close to parts of someone else’s speech, the would-be first lady was in good company. Joe Biden, the US vice-president, was famously caught out, as were others.

Joe Biden and Neil Kinnock

New York TimesMaureen Dowd

In the August debate at the Iowa state fair, Biden said:

“Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go a university? Why is it that my wife . . . is the first in her family to ever go to college? 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 after 12 hours and play football for four hours? It’s because they didn’t have a platform on which to stand.”

In May 1987, Kinnock told the Welsh Labour party conference:

“Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because our predecessors were thick? Does anybody really think that they didn’t get what we had because they didn’t have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment? Of course not. It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand.”

Biden said he had credited Kinnock on several occasions, but failed to do so this time. However, Michael Dukakis, one of Biden’s rivals, released a video putting together the two speeches. The ensuing furore was a huge embarrassment to Biden and helped scupper his campaign.

Ironically, Dowd was caught up in a plagiarism row of her own in in 2009, when she was accused of lifting from a blogger for a column criticising Dick Cheney on the use of torture.

Stephen Harper and John Howard

Owen LippertIraq

Harper said: “As the possession of weapons of mass destruction spreads, the danger of such weapons coming into the hands of terrorist groups will multiply, particularly given in this case the shameless association of Iraq with rogue non-state organisations. That is the ultimate nightmare which the world must take decisive and effective steps to prevent. Possession of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by terrorists would constitute a direct, undeniable and lethal threat to the world, including to Canada and its people.”

A few days earlier, the Australian prime minister, John Howard, a strong supporter of the Bush administration, had told the Australian parliament:

“As the possession of weapons of mass destruction spreads, so the danger of such weapons coming into the hands of terrorist groups will multiply. That is the ultimate nightmare which the world must take decisive and effective steps to prevent. Possession of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by terrorists would constitute a direct, undeniable and lethal threat to Australia and its people.”

Lippert said that, pressed for time, he “had been overzealous in copying segments of another world leader’s speech”. Lippert said Harper had been unaware of his action.

Barack Obama and Deval Patrick

Obama cited well-known speeches and documents including those by Martin Luther King, John F Kennedy and from the declaration of independence and asked if they were just words. Patrick had used many of the same quotes. Obama subsequently acknowledged that he should have credited Patrick. “He [Patrick] had suggested we use these lines. I thought they were good lines. I’m sure I should have. Didn’t this time.”

Ben Carson and socialismsucks.net

America the BeautifulBill Federer

From socialismsucks:

“Sure, there are several different brands of socialism – at least as many types as there are would-be people-planners who wish to impose their plans to control the moral and economic lives of other people. But are you willing to surrender your precious liberties to a socialist state which promises ‘security’ for everyone or government-enforced equality? Isn’t this what Hitler and other socialists promised the German people in his Nazi (national socialist) platform – a country in which government guarantees security and “equality” in exchange for giving up individual freedom? Will Americans continue to fall for the same scam?”

From Carson’s America the Beautiful:

“Sure, there are several different brands of socialism – at least as many types as there are would-be people-planners who wish to impose their plans to control the moral and economic lives of other people. But are you willing to surrender your precious liberties to a socialist state which promises ‘security’ for everyone and government-enforced equality? Isn’t this what Hitler and other socialists promised the German people in his Nazi (national socialist) platform – a country in which government guarantees security and ‘equality’ in exchange for giving up individual freedom? Will Americans fall for the same scam?”

Guardian service

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