The Republican Convention is well underway in Cleveland, Ohio, and Donald Trump is, as of last night (July 19), the party’s official nominee for president of the United States of America. But that is not the biggest news to come out of Cleveland. No, that spot is currently held Melania Trump’s convention speech, which plagiarized several lines of a 2008 Democratic National Convention speech by Michelle Obama.
It would be funny if it weren’t so disgraceful, and unbelievable if it hadn’t actually happened—just like the fact that Tump is a major candidate for the most powerful office in the world.
The New York Times, citing several anonymous sources, reconstructed the plagiarism scandal this way: Melania Trump’s experienced speechwriters, Matthew Scully and John McConnell, prepared a draft of the speech for her several weeks ago. She tore it apart, keeping only a shred of the original, and eventually ended up with another version, which she delivered in front of 23 million people—plagiarized passages and all.
The Trump campaign’s reaction to the incident went from sheer denial to something more curious, if at least more believable. About 36 hours into the scandal, a staffer stepped forward and took the blame. In a statement printed on The Trump Organization‘s letterhead, Meredith McIver said she helped the candidate’s wife craft her remarks and inserted Obama’s quotes in the speech, mistaking them for Melania Trump’s own musings when the would-be first lady was sharing them as examples of what she wanted to communicate.
Whatever the truth may be, the political relevance of what happened is best captured in a tweet from the candidate himself:
Only, if this speech got ”more publicity than any in the history of politics,” where does that leave achievements like George Washington’s farewell address, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” remarks, not to mention Mahatma Gandhi’s “Quit India” address, or Nelson Mandela‘s “An ideal I am prepared to die for”?
But being historically accurate is not the point—with the Trumps, it never is. There is however, a kernel of truth in what the candidate tweeted. His wife’s speech didn’t get more press than any other in history, but it did get more than any other at the convention so far—and she stole the show just like he’s always stolen the show, in ways that have little to do with politics and nothing to do with merit.