After Melania Trump delivered a partially plagiarized speech at the Republican National Convention, journalists wondered whether she would speak on the campaign trail again. On Thursday, more than three months later and with just six days left in the election, the would-be first lady finally gave another speech.
This one left reporters asking questions, too: Did she just plagiarize Marla Maples? She thinks how many women live in poverty? Has she met her own husband?
The last question is a bit facetious, of course. But as Melania Trump denounced cyberbullying, journalists noted that she is married to the year's cyber-bully-in-chief.
“It is never okay when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied or attacked,” Melania Trump said in Pennsylvania. “It is terrible when it happens on the playground, and it is absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone with no name hiding on the Internet. We have to find a better way to talk to each other.”
— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) November 3, 2016
Dept. of Are You Kidding Me?: Melania Trump's platform would be making people nicer on social media. "Our culture has gotten too mean." pic.twitter.com/DVyPGQAR3b
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) November 3, 2016
Melania Trump talking about social media is… https://t.co/CpIdqp18gT
— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) November 3, 2016
— Charlie Warzel (@cwarzel) November 3, 2016
social media decency starts at home...
— digby (@digby56) November 3, 2016
In her speech today, Melania lamented the "bad side" of social media and how "our culture has gotten too mean and too rough." And yet... pic.twitter.com/o9SHnGIQ0B
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) November 3, 2016
At least Melania Trump is not alone among Donald Trump surrogates who act like the Republican presidential nominee hasn't said the things he has said — on Twitter and elsewhere. Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway are probably the best at it.
Melania Trump is, however, uniquely positioned in the crosshairs of the plagiarism patrol, after she (and/or the speechwriter, Meredith McIver, who took the blame) lifted portions of a Michelle Obama speech in July. Several journalists quickly noticed that one of Melania Trump's hopeful mantras — “if you could dream it, you could become it” — was uttered first by Donald Trump's second wife, Marla Maples, in 2011.
Just googled "if you could dream it you could become it" which Melania just said. Result is quote from Marla Maples! https://t.co/grfeU8Dnx3
— Jeremy Hobson (@jeremyhobson) November 3, 2016
Melania just plagiarized Trump's second wife Marla Maples. Here's the only Google results for "if you could dream it, you could become it": pic.twitter.com/ALeHuSZqEm
— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) November 3, 2016
Trump advisor to @ChrisJansing on shared Melania/Marla line in speech: "This is a common inspirational phrase even found on posters"
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) November 3, 2016
It does seem like a pretty generic phrase, unlike the pilfered Michelle Obama quotes, but the possibility that Melania Trump would plagiarize again — and from one of Donald Trump's ex-wives! — instantly got reporters talking.
As for the number of women in poverty, it sure sounded like she said "50 percent.” That would be a huge exaggeration, of course. It also sounded like she said "60 million” people lack health insurance. That would also be a big stretch.
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) November 3, 2016
According to a transcript of Melania Trump's prepared remarks, provided after the speech by the Trump campaign, she meant to say "15 percent” of women live in poverty, which would be accurate, and "16 million” people lack health insurance. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report published in September, there were 28.5 million uninsured non-elderly Americans at the end of 2015.
It makes little sense that the Trump campaign would have wanted to underreport the number of uninsured Americans, since the point was to paint a grim picture of the country. Thus, the figures in Melania Trump's prepared remarks seem a bit suspicious. The script could have been tweaked before it was distributed to reporters, in an attempt to make Melania Trump's erroneous delivered remarks seem like innocent malapropisms from a nonnative English speaker.
Whatever the case, Melania Trump speeches always leave the media with questions.