The “My Little Pony” defense: GOP tarnishes its image further by refusing to admit plagiarism

Given the perfidy and bigotry of the Republican party, and the odious candidate they’ve chosen in Donald Trump, I’m not overly concerned about his wife’s plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s speech. Yes, it was wrong, yes, they should have fired whoever wrote that speech, and yes, they all deserved opprobrium. (Imagine the rancor the Republicans would have displayed had Bill Clinton done the same thing in support of his wife Hillary!) What makes it really bad is that the party and Trump’s flacks are refusing to admit it’s plagiarism. But any thinking person—and yes, even some Trump supporters are sentient—won’t buy that. Have a listen to the blatant cribbing:

What to do? Admit that it was a cribbing by the speechwriter, suggest that it was inadvertent, and apologize. But the GOP won’t do that, and their excuses are simply silly. They’re not even credible enough to fool the average Trump supporter:

“To think that she would do something like that knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be last night is just really absurd,” Manafort said.

Manafort said the words Melania used were not “cribbed” but are common words.

“There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech. These were common words and values. She cares about her family,” Manafort said. “To think that she’d be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy.”

It gets worse:

Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s chief strategist, invoked “My Little Pony” in defending the speech in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“Melania Trump said, ‘the strength of your dreams and willingness to work for them.’ Twilight Sparkle from ‘My Little Pony’ said, ‘This is your dream. Anything you can do in your dreams, you can do now,’ ” Spicer said.

He also compared passages of Trump’s speech with phrases from musicians John Legend and Kid Rock.

“I mean if we want to take a bunch of phrases and run them through a Google and say, ‘Hey, who else has said them,’ I can do that in five minutes,” Spicer said. “And that’s what this is.”

Unfortunately, the cribbing was far more extensive than just “This is your dream. . .” etc. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the plagiarism from CNN:

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 8.37.23 AM

If a student gave me an essay with this kind of unattributed cribbing, I’d fail him. Even Jonah Lehrer was fired by the New Yorker for cribbing less extensive than this.  But even Republicans are not that dumb, and the excuses offered by the party—that this was common usage and not plagiarism—isn’t fooling anyone. Trump had a chance to win (which would have depressed me no end, besides ruining the country), but over and over again his campaign has damaged itself. It’s the Death from a Thousand Cuts. And now the GOP may have done themselves fatal damage by telling the public that they think we’re is credulous and stupid.

It reminds me of Hillary’s email kerfuffle. It wasn’t so bad that she used a private server to host official and sometimes sensitive government emails. That might have been inadvertent. But her lying about it afterwards wasn’t. It’s always best to admit the truth up front.



  1. Robert Bray
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    According to an article in this morning’s NYT, Mrs. Trump may well have done the plagiary herself. For she took the draft of the speech from her speechwriters and pretty much trashed in in favor of writing her own speech from scratch.

  2. Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Apparently, this is all a complete non-issue. Melanoma explains everything on the Colbert Show.

  3. GBJames
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    “But even Republicans are not that dumb…”

    Here, we disagree.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      They’re not even credible enough to fool the average Trump supporter.

      Professor Ceiling Cat seems to have a remarkably optimistic view on the dregs of humanity today. Did someone send him a pokemon-Go Kitten or something?

      Sorry, just saw a Simpsons-ism : “I’m not a Care Bear, I’m an INTENSIVE Care Bear.” Why does that feel appropriate for American politics? Well, any politics really.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:55 am | Permalink

        Hmmm, haven’t seen this one before. Homer does Androcles.
        Truely, ‘the Simpsons’ is a piece of American culture that everyone involved can be proud of. And 16 years ago they had a vision of the future : “38-year-old Lisa is the first straight female President of the United States, trying to rebuild the country after the economic downfall during the rule of Donald Trump.” (S11E17, Bart to the Future)

      • Christopher
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        I agree. I’m not so optimistic. I don’t think Trumpublicans care what he says or does. They’ll vote for him no matter what. 7 years of putting up with a black president has not put them in the mood for 4 years under a woman. No matter that Trump used to be a democrat, no matter that Trump used to be buddy-buddy with the Clintons, he’s a white man who spews their preferred brand of gibberish, vomiting it back into their mouths as if they were some sort of disgusting baby birds. It’s pandering at its barest and most obvious. They don’t care. He’s not fooling them. They’re in it together, just like we are not fooled when we see Penn & Teller. We’re participating, we’re part of the act, we want to be fooled and we’re helping them fool us. Trump is sawing them in half, and THEY LIKE IT.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted July 20, 2016 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

          vomiting it back into their mouths as if they were some sort of disgusting baby birds.

          Oh, trigger words. You’re reminding me of the joys of doing CPR on a guy who dies under you. They don’t mention what to do when the victim vomits into your mouth (hint : spit it out, clear the air way, and carry on).

          • Christopher
            Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

            Gee, thanks for that mental image. Suddenly the malai kofta I had for dinner isn’t sitting so well.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted July 21, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

              If you ever find yourself in the position of giving CPR, knowing it is a possibility may reduce the chances of you failing in the main task (life saving). I wished I’d known, because it came as a horrible surprise to me, and really put me off my rhythm. Since I still had about 20 minutes of work until the professionals arrived, it was definitely a problem.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted July 22, 2016 at 7:44 am | Permalink

                I’m *so* glad I haven’t had your life… 😉


  4. steve kern
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Why did no heads roll when that was the obvious solution? Could it be that it would have been a Trump Family Head?

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      The Donald will vigorously defend his wife Melania, right up to the moment he trades her in for a newer model.

  5. Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Trump University galvanizes its creative writing department.

  6. scaryreasoner
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I can imagine two scenarios leading to this kind of plagiarism: 1) Melania didn’t really want to give the speech, but Trump insists, so she thinks, “Fine. I’ll give a speech. let’s see how The Donald likes *this* speech.” 2) speech writer is about to quit anyway because, it’s Trump, so as a parting shot, sneaks the words of Michelle Obama into the mouth of the Trump campaign.

    • Kevin
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      I think 3) they did it all on purpose. A forgettable speech is likely one Melania would have given. A plagiarized one is excellent fodder for memory.

      I have just now read part of the speech she gave (regurgitated). That’s impressive, given that it almost certainly was going to be below the noise had she not.

  7. darrelle
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I just can’t be as confident that Trump doesn’t have a chance. Where I live Trump signs and bumper stickers are by far the most numerous and have been from the beginning of the campaign season. It seems a sure thing to me that Trump is going to win in my little region of paradise. I really hope that enough of the rest of the nation get it right and we are able to avoid a Trump presidency.

    Speaking of bumper stickers, a very common combination around my town is a sticker with some variation of “CrookedHillary” directly above a sticker with some variation of “Trump, Make America Great Again!” The irony is truly of Brobdingnagian proportions. It doesn’t seem wrong to me in any way to claim that these people are fricking idiots.

    • veroxitatis
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Before the vote to remain or leave the EU (Brexit – UK) I was sure that Trump would never become POTUS. Now that more than 17 million of my fellow citizens voted to leave, I am less sanguine.
      What is even worse than Trump becoming President or the UK exiting the EU, will be the anger felt by those who voted for these things to happen when they discover that the nostrums peddled about the far better USA or UK which would come into being, turn out to be chimeras or even lies.

      • Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        PCC(E) and I have a bet about whether Trump will win. I bet he will (on the advice of Mencken’s famous dictum that no one has ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people). I fear Mencken was right and I might actually win this bet.

  8. Karen Fierman
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Yes, SHE did it, but who cares? In the great scheme of things, this is SO not important. Yes, someone should have checked over her speech, but given all else that’s been uttered at that convention, this is truly a NON-matter.

    • kieran
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      She didn’t write the speech, a professional speech writer did.
      Whoever that person was put his client in a situation that has opened them up for ridicule. If I was running the campaign I would publicly fire the person.
      The fact that it wasn’t caught shows how disorganized Trumps campaign is. Hopefully this will turn into a result at the ballot box because he won’t turn out his vote effectively.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        See comment 1 above. If the NYT article is correct, Mrs. Trump is probably responsible for the plagiary.

      • jeremyp
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        If I was running the campaign I would publicly fire the person.

        Yes, that would be such an obvious thing to do, you have to ask why has it not been done? I think I would go with Robert Bray’s comment upthread, namely that Melania wrote that bit herself.

        You can’t publicly fire your own wife and prospective First Partner.

        I simply do not accept that any professional speech writer would deliberately plagiarise somebody else’s speech, especially not the kind of amorphous platitudes that actually were plagiarised in this case. Even if they did, surely they have the skills to reword the sentiment so that the plagiarism doesn’t get discovered.

        I see two possibilities:

        1. Melania was deliberately stitched up by a disgruntled speech writer.
        2. The speech writer was not a professional

        Possibility 2 includes Melania herself, of course.

        Possibility 1 would probably mark the end of the speech writer’s career so that seems less likely than possibility 2 to me.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 20, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          Or possibility three: Corey Lewandowski wrote the speech and they can’t fire him because they did that already. (He’s been turning up at Trump events.)

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        The fact that it wasn’t caught shows how disorganized Trumps campaign is. Hopefully this will turn into a result at the ballot box because he won’t turn out his vote effectively.

        This site is full of sweetness and light today. What a delightful idea ; you almost inspire confidence.
        Does anyone remember playing Doom and the delights of the “rocket jump“? now, how to introduce both the idea to Trump’s head and a bazooka and some high-explosive rockets to the room, at the same time.

    • Posted July 20, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Apparently, Glen Greenwald also thinks Melania’s plagiarism was trivial (see below). But not only does plagiarism matter, it matters critically.

      Language matters. A campaign that is so illiterate it needs to lift its words from the current president’s wife demonstrates how ill-equipped it is to lead.

      • Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Strange. Greenwald is acting kind-of like… like…

        …a plagiarist.

      • Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        A link to Greenwald on WEIT…I’m getting vertigo.

      • Posted July 20, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

        If it were the only item, or if it crowds everything else, I agree with Greenwald. If it is just added to the pile, then no.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      I agree that this episode is not so important. After all, Melania is not running for president, she just happens to be the spouse of someone who is. But:

      1) The denial by the campaign is hilarious, embarrassing, and keeps the story in the news.

      2) The number and scale of ‘reasons why Donald Trump should not be president’ is so great, that I am not inclined to leap to their defense.

  9. Christopher
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    The truth is though, that the Trumpublicans don’t give a shit. How many times has he said “I know more about ______ than anybody!”, which would make him the most learned person in the history of human kind if true, and they just clap and cheer, knowing full well he’s completely ignorant on the subject. Watching the convention makes me sick. A massive room full of sycophants and bootlickers with their faces plastered with shit-eating grins… There is quite possibly NOTHING he could do that would turn them against him. and I’m truly worried that in the end, thanks to the Bernie Sanders simpletons who’ve decided that he’s the second coming of jesus and Barak Obama, that they’ll just write in Sanders’ name or not bother to vote at all, thinking they’re really sticking it to the man, or in this case, woman, because they parrot the stupid “we can’t trust Hillary” tripe. I’d like to be more confident but I’ve got a nasty feeling we’ll wake up in November in the new United States of Trumplandia.

    • Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      I see it a lot on social media. (tough to tell who is a troll or paid shill, though)

      If a significant fraction of these ravings are true (and I think most are), there are a LOT of people out there who are wholly ignorant of their election laws. It’s really, really, really goddamned depressing.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        I’ve noticed even intelligent people thinking Trump can “blow up the system” and change things. They clearly have little or no understanding of how their own government actually works.

        • Christopher
          Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

          I’ve herd the same b.s. from the Bernie liberals who think he’s better than Hillary. Why are they so sure this nation can survive 4 years of him blowing up the system and why would they even wish to risk it? We barely survived 8 years of W, it’s take 7 years to sorta get back on our feet, and yeah, while there are things to change in our country, our elections, our health care, our policing, our schools, I’m not sure putting a narcissistic demagogue in charge is really what’s gonna work.

        • Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

          If he were able to, that would likely create power vacua and the usual nastiness would result. And the resulting regime *would have nuclear weapons*. No thanks! That’s one reason smashing the USSR was so dangerous – it was amazing that we survived the 90s, for example, given what went on. And we’re not out of the woods yet …

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      I’m the pessimist here but I have to put my bet with the professor. The only thing required by the other side is lots of promotion of voting. Hilary should spend a good percentage of her war chest on getting out the vote. All of her promoters should be out covering the country-side with vote and more voting. The demos worst enemy is not getting the masses out there to vote.

      No matter how landslide it might be and should be, it’s all about voting. There is no chance of winning back the house so they can forget that. The Gerrymandering done in all these red states prevents it. Should get the Senate back and then see what happens to this flamed out republican mess.

  10. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I don’t think plagiarism is even a strong part of the Trump campaign. Now talking out of an orifice other than his mouth, that is Trump.

  11. Sakebomb
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Well, looks like Trump found someone to fall on the sword for this debacle.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t read the link yet, but what’s the bet this person is getting a pay-off of some kind for taking the fall? The delay until this happened was to sort out the contract

  12. docbill1351
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    It wasn’t plagiarism, it was SABOTAGE!!

    It’s the Rickroll right there in the speech.

    “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down.”

    The speechwriter deserves a medal for this magnificent piece of political backstabbing. Absolutely brilliant.

    Of course, I do feel bad for Melania who was used as a stooge, totally unaware, to execute the plot. She will always have a place in my heart imagining her saying “Moose and Squirrel.”

    Check out the Melania Rickroll

  13. naomifein
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    The other night, to my surprise and delight, ABC national news — I usually deplore their political coverage, but then I deplore the coverage of all the networks — did something marvelous: they showed clips of Melania’s speech followed by clips of Michelle Obama’s speech, back and forth, over all the plagiarized passages.
    It was terrific.

  14. Posted July 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    We can all relax. A scapegoat for the plagiarism that never happened has been found. The culprit is Meredith McIvor, Trump speechwriter.

  15. Stephen Barnard
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    The party of “personal responsibility” typically takes no responsibility for a massive fuck up. Now a staffer admits it was her mistake, which conclusively shows it was plagiarism, but they still deny it.

    The plagiarism itself was minor, though embarrassing. The denial that it was plagiarism is damning.

  16. Taz
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Imagine the rancor the Republicans would have displayed had Bill Clinton done the same thing in support of his wife Hillary!

    I don’t know the schedule for the Democratic National Convention, but I presume Bill Clinton will be speaking, and I imagine he’ll get in a few digs about this.

  17. Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    This article is just out, ‘splaining what really happened.

    Anyway, in collaborating with the speech writer, Melania did reference Michelle’s speech, and should have known the final copy contained unattributed plagiarized paragraphs. All she had to do was give credit where credit was due. But apparently that’s not how the Trumps do business.

  18. Sakebomb
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Looks like they screwed up the pinning this on the patsy as well. Her confession was on Trump’s business letterhead and she described herself as an employee of Trump’s business, not the campaign. Having the campaign use corporate resources is a federal offense.

  19. J. Quinton
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me how conservative Christian scholars attempt to explain (away) why the Synoptic gospels have multitudes of overlap and word for word similarities.

  20. Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read much about this so this may have been mentioned. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but it’s hard to imagine whoever did this thought they would get away with it. If that’s the case this could only have been done with the intention of sabotaging the speech.

    • Christopher
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      But you have to admit, it’s rather amusing that a huge gathering of republicans cheered without knowing they were overjoyed with a black woman’s words.

  21. Marella
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    I don’t think for one minute the Trumpists will give a damn. Reality doesn’t interest them.

  22. Nicholas Arand
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    It looks like it is plagiarism, but let’s face it, any “candidate bullshit generator” would come up with something equality similar.

  23. Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    As I tell me son: Never lie. (I knew this already; but reading Sam Harris’s book Lying really drove it home. Not that I ever lied habitually.)

    As I also tell him: If you screw up, admit it, apologize, and move on.

    At my work place forthcoming honesty is expected. If you mess up, you immediately report it. They will deal with it. If you cover it up? You’re going to be fired.

    My advice to a friend who is having (very) bad communication with their family: Be honest, forthcoming, and complete.

    Say what you think. Say everything. Don;t expect people to read your mind. Always ask for what you want.

  24. jeffery
    Posted July 23, 2016 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    The Teapublicans don’t care if anyone is “fooled”, or not: they live in their own self-contained reality of inbred ideas and mental masturbation- PCC was talking the other day about “Identity politics”; in the Teapublicans’ case, this means that, “…so long as I believe it, it’s true.”

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