In 2008, Michelle Obama was in the position in which Melania Trump found herself on Monday night, pressed into service giving a speech making the case for her husband's candidacy.
"Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values," Obama said at the time, "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."
"Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values," she continued, "and pass them on to the next generation. Because 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."
A moving testament to values shared by two people, offering guidance to the audience on the other side of the camera. Or, maybe, shared by three people. Because as journalist Jarrett Hill noticed, Melania Trump's speech at the 2016 Republican convention suggested that she was guided by the same values that guided Michelle and Barack Obama — basically verbatim. "You work hard for what you want in life." "Your word is your bond." And, of course, those lessons should be passed on to future generations.
— Jarrett Hill (@JarrettHill) July 19, 2016
Here's Trump's speech, as delivered:
"From a young age," she said, according to prepared remarks, "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. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life."
"That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son, and we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow," she said. "Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."
Even as Hill's tweet rocketed around social media, Donald Trump tweeted his praise for her performance.
It was truly an honor to introduce my wife, Melania. Her speech and demeanor were absolutely incredible. Very proud! #GOPConvention
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2016
That said, prominent Trump defender Jeffrey Lord wasn't willing to wave the issue away when asked about it on CNN, calling it a "serious thing." That said, he then drew a stark comparison in Trump's defense: "This is not Benghazi."
Who's to blame? In an interview with Matt Lauer, Melania said that she wrote the speech herself, with "[as] little help as possible."
At 1:15, Melania is asked about her speech and says, "I wrote it"https://t.co/os6zrffsQ0
— Nell Scovell (@NellSco) July 19, 2016
Early Tuesday, the Trump campaign pushed the blame elsewhere a bit more forcefully, issuing this statement: "In 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. Melania's immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success."
That's much more likely; for a big speech like this, speechwriters are customary. As noted by Stuart Stevens, who worked for Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign — and who is no fan of Trump's — the fault here primarily lies with whatever staffer should have vetted the speech.
On CNN Tuesday morning, Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort offered an unexpected explanation: No one stole anything. "There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech," he said, according to a transcript from the network. "These were common words and values that she cares about her family and things like that. I mean, she was speaking in front of 35 million people last night, she knew that. To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy."
"This is, once again, an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down," he continued. "It's not going to work." To our knowledge, Hillary Clinton and her campaign have made no comment on the incident whatsoever.
So who's responsible? That's not yet clear. One thing we can say with some confidence: it seems unlikely that it's the same person that helped Michelle Obama write her speech eight years ago.