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Melania Trump Republican Convention Speech Bears Striking Similarities to Michelle Obama Address

Melania Trump's speech at the Republican National Convention bore striking similarities to First Lady Michelle Obama’s address at the 2008 Democratic convention.
Image: Republican National Convention: Day One
Melania Trump, wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, delivers a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.Alex Wong / Getty Images

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A chunk of Melania Trump's Republican National Convention speech appears to have been lifted from Michelle Obama’s address at the 2008 Democratic convention.

Trump said on the TODAY Show that she wrote the speech largely on her own, telling host Matt Lauer that: "I read once over it, and that’s all. Because I wrote it…with as little help as possible."

Her emotional address to GOP delegates on Monday night sought to show her husband's softer side, a star turn that quickly drew glowing praise.

Then a journalist pointed out the striking similarities — almost word for word at points — to the first lady's speech from 2008, and a plagiarism controversy exploded.

A two-paragraph section of Trump's speech about family values bears nearly identical phrasing to Obama's 2008 address, which was seen as a breakout moment for the future first lady and a humanizing moment for her husband.

"My parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life. That your word is your bond, and you do what you say and keep your promise. That you treat people with respect," Trump told delegates about halfway through her speech Monday night.

Compare that to Obama's, which said: "Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them."

Trump went on to emphasize the need to "pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow, because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and the willingness to work for them."

It’s a near mirror of the next line in Obama’s speech: "We want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

In a rare point of GOP and Democratic unity, the reaction to the two speeches was similar as well: Republicans cheered the same lines their Democratic counterparts cheered years before.

The reaction to the apparent plagiarism was swift: Twitter erupted and the hashtag #FamousMelaniaTrumpQuotes — poking fun at the candidate's wife by attributing others' historic sayings to her — was trending worldwide.

Trump convention manager Paul Manafort responded to the controversy on CNN on Tuesday morning, saying "there is no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech."

"These were common words and values, and she cares about her family," Manafort said. "To think that she would do something like that, knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be last night, is just really absurd."

The Trump campaign release a statement early Tuesday that did not directly address the allegations.

"In writing her beautiful speech, Melania's team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking," Trump senior communications advisor Jason Miller said in the statement. "Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success."

That has done little to stem the flood of criticism, which already has marred what was Trump's first foray back onto the campaign trail in months.

She was one of an array of Trump family members set to deliver primetime speeches during the Republican National Convention. Aides hope the speeches will help show the softer side of a brash candidate who holds the lowest approval ratings of a major party nominee in history.

Charges of plagiarism are nothing new in politics — but when they arise, they often have a significant, negative impact on the plagiarizer’s political hopes.

Vice President Joe Biden dropped out of the 1988 presidential race after he admitted to plagiarizing part of a paper he wrote in law school; Montana Sen. John Walsh, a Democrat, ended his reelection bid after less than a year in office because he was found to have lifted chunks of his master’s thesis.

With Trump surrogates blanketing the RNC festivities all week, the plagiarism charges pose another issue the campaign and GOP leadership will need to tackle before the week ends and Trump is officially crowned the party’s nominee.