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Melania Trump: Far From the First Political Plagiarism Scandal

The biggest story to emerge from the first night of the Republican National Convention was Melania Trump's apparent plagiarism during her speech.
Image: John Walsh
Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., and other senators rush to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, for a vote to extend the Treasury's borrowing authority. After a dramatic Senate tally in which top GOP leaders cast the crucial votes, must-pass legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills cleared Congress Wednesday for President Barack Obama's signature.J. Scott Applewhite / ASSOCIATED PRESS

The biggest story to emerge from the first night of the Republican National Convention was Melania Trump's apparent plagiarism of segments of a speech Michelle Obama delivered at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

Although the Trump campaign is denying any wrongdoing on their part, the incident has brought about a fresh wave of criticism of their discipline and organization. Meanwhile, the Melania Trump speech flap has resurrected many memories of similar political scandals of the past.

Related: Melania Trump Speech Bears Striking Similarities to Michelle Obama Address

Plagiarism scandals have derailed candidacies in both parties, and at the very least, put politicians in an awkward position. Here are just a few of the most infamous from the recent past, including some from the last seven months:

Marco Rubio (2016): When the Florida lawmaker delivered a surprisingly optimistic speech following his third-place finish in February's New Hampshire primary, declaring "this is the moment they said would never happen," more than a few commentators noted the eerie similarity to a 2008 victory speech from Barack Obama. Even Obama's speechwriter tweeted: "He could’ve at least thanked Obama for the opening line." And while many skeptics argued that allegations of plagiarism were a stretch, the brief flap may have underlined some GOP voters' discomfort with a candidate who could be so easily compared to their least favorite POTUS.

Ted Cruz (2016): The Texas senator's penchant for making pop culture references is well-documented. Not only has he had a tendency to unleash impressions of "Star Wars" and "Princess Bride" characters, he also stumbled badly when he attempted to pay homage to a scene from the movie "Hoosiers" during a campaign stop in Iowa (the infamous "basketball ring" remark). But he really took heat for repeating a line direct from the hit Michael Douglas film "The American President" while defending his wife from attacks from Donald Trump.

John Walsh (2014): The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Montana could have been poised to have a bright future in the party when he was appointed to finish off retiring Sen. Max Baucus' term in 2014. Walsh, who was the only U.S. senator to have served in the Iraq War, sought to win a full term but had to bow out of the race when it was revealed that he had plagiarized portions of his 2007 master's degree term paper at the U.S. Army War College. Eventually his degree was revoked, and the GOP won the seat in a landslide.

Rand Paul (2013): The Kentucky Republican is known for speaking his own mind, so it may come to a surprise to many that when he was campaigning on behalf of Virginia's GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli he wound up relying on Wikipedia. And it wasn't just any Wiki entry he cribbed form, it was the publicly edited website's summary of the late-'90s sci-fi cult film "Gattaca." “I gave credit to the people who wrote the movie,” Paul later said, but his gaffe renewed scrutiny of his record and it was later reported that he also once ripped off a 2003 Heritage Foundation case study in his book without proper attribution.

Dr. Ben Carson (2012): In his 2012 book "America the Beautiful", the retired neurosurgeon spoke candidly about stealing other people's research as an undergraduate psychology major. "Even though I did not know the implications of plagiarism, I certainly should have known inherently that what I was doing was wrong," he wrote. But ironically, according to BuzzFeed, portions of Carson's book itself were copied directly from the website, as well as conservative historians Cleon Skousen and Bill Federer.

Scott Brown (2011): During his brief honeymoon as a rising Republican star, Brown was dinged by Massachusetts Democrats for apparently plagiarizing 2002 remarks from former North Carolina GOP Sen. Elizabeth Dole about how she was raised and her dedication to public service on his official website. "Sen. Dole's website served as one of the models for Sen. Brown's website when he first took office. During construction of the site, the content on this particular page was inadvertently transferred without being rewritten," his reps said at the time.

Barack Obama (2008): During their heated 2008 primary battle for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton's campaign pounced on the Obama operation when it was revealed that the then-Illinois senator had been recycling rhetoric from his friend Gov. Deval Patrick's 2006 stump speech. Obama largely diffused the controversy by acknowledging he should have credited Patrick, saying the the two of them "trade ideas all the time" and he pointed out that Clinton herself had occasionally lifted some of his trademark lines herself.

Joe Biden (1987): Then-Sen. Biden's early rise and promising 1988 presidential bid took a huge hit when he was caught using lines from British Labour leader Neal Kinnock's speeches without always giving him the proper credit. The revelation led to a bit of feeding frenzy, with some of his law school papers' veracity getting called into question. Biden was forced to withdraw from the race for the Democratic nomination in September before a single vote was cast. The future VP later said: "All I had to say was 'Like Kinnock.' If I'd just said those two words, 'Like Kinnock,' and I didn't. It was my fault, nobody else's fault."