Earlier today, a Trump campaign employee, Meredith McIver, claimed responsibility for the sentences in Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech that were obviously part of a 2008 Michelle Obama speech. A statement was issued clarifying how the lifted lines found their way into the speech.
“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,” Ms. McIver wrote.
“A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama,” she added.
“Over the phone,” Ms. Trump “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 caused Melania and the Trumps as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant.”
Well, television host Mike Rowe was asked by a reader, Eileen Bayer, to weigh in on the whole situation, which he did on his Facebook page, starting off with a startling accusation:
Hello Eileen – I don’t know about common sense, but here’s my analysis of the situation. (I hope to God someone hasn’t already written this.)
Regarding the charges of plagiarism, I really don’t know. All I know for sure is that Mrs. Trump is absolutely, positively guilty of standing before the country and reading words she didn’t write as if they were own. I also know that Mrs. Obama is guilty of doing the same thing. Both women – along with their husbands – have stood proudly before a national audience and pretended the words they read originated with them – knowing full well they did not.
Powerful words, but what exactly doe she mean by that?
Let’s consider for a moment, the weird reality of speechwriters in our political discourse. Why do we tolerate them? Why do we permit our leaders to pretend that someone else’s words are theirs? Moreover, why do we allow them to stand before us and act as if they’re NOT reading from a script, when we know damn well they are? Why – in this – “age of authenticity” – do we accept the artifice of a Teleprompter, and all the other pretenses of earnestness that enable candidates to present themselves as something other than who they really are?
Well that took an unexpected turn. He continued:
I always thought the obvious answer was because we’re a lazy and shallow species who value style over substance. But now, it seems I was mistaken. Today, half the country has risen up in righteous indignation because the words of an anonymous speechwriter – words once read by Mrs. Obama as if they were her own – have been co-opted by another anonymous speechwriter, and given to another aspiring First Lady – who also read those same words as if they belonged to her!
Did either one of them believe what they read? Beats me. Does anyone even care about such a thing? Who knows? No one is talking about what was said. Only about how they said it. What we know for sure – is that neither one of them wrote the words they spoke. The real question is, do we truly care? Personally, I do. But not as much as I care about the underlying Kabuki that now informs the whole election process.
Well, those are some pretty excellent points, but can we get an example Mike? Of course we can, he’s happy to oblige:
On the other hand, the right words do matter, regardless of where they originate. I remember, in the wake of the Challenger disaster, Ronald Regan gave a truly extraordinary speech. Every sentence was brilliant, but this part was unforgettable.
“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them this morning, as they prepared for their journey, waved goodbye, and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”
I was 22 at the time, and I literally cried when I heard those words. I was truly touched. Later, I learned those words had been written for Reagan by Peggy Noonan. After that, I learned Peggy Noonan had lifted those words from a poem called “High Flight,” written by an airman who died in WWII named John McGee.
Did Ronald Reagan plagiarize Peggy Noonan? Did Peggy Noonan plagiarize John McGee?
You can view Rowe’s full post here: