The plot thickens in the Melania Trump plagiarised speech controversy at the Republican National Convention. Two high-powered political speech writers were reportedly hired to pen her remarks, but she rejected their efforts and changed nearly every word.
Writers Matthew Scully and John McConnell — who have penned important speeches for George W. Bush — sent Melania Trump a draft in June, but heard nothing from her and did not know about any changes until they heard her speak on television at the convention, according to an account in the New York Times based on several interviews.
The former model had decided she did not like the speech, and essentially scrapped it, keeping only the introduction and another passage that did not involve the lines causing all the controversy, according to the Times. That would suggest that the word-for-word repetitions from parts of Michelle Obama's 2008 Democratic convention speech were either Melania's direct responsibility — or the fault of advisers close to her who helped rewrite the speech.
The Times suggested that she may have turned to Meredith McIver, a former ballet dancer and English major who has worked on some of Donald Trump's books, but McIver did not respond to requests from the newspaper to comment.
The Times account would explain why the Trump campaign has announced that no one will be fired in the wake of the controversy that completely overshadowed the opening night of the Republican National Convention. Donald Trump Jr, however, heaped blame on unidentified "speechwriters" for the bungle.
"I imagine there's people who shouldn't have done that or who should have cleaned it up better," Trump said in an interview with CBS News. He also stated campaign chairman Paul Manafort "didn't really have anything to do with the speech," adding that Melania Trump "of course" worked with speechwriters.
"Having never done this before you have to work with speechwriters," he said. "Those are the people that did this, not Paul" — acknowledging that "this" happened, apparently referring to plagiarism.
The embarrassing opening night episode reaches well beyond the issue of plagiarism, according to several political observers. The massive gaffe and the way the campaign handled a response underscores the often amateur operations of the Trump campaign, noted the Times.
"It just shouldn't have happened," former White House speechwriter Matt Latimer told the newspaper. "This was an easy home run speech: a successful, attractive immigrant talking about her husband. The most cardinal rule of any speech-writing operation is that you cannot plagiarise." Typically, such speeches would be carefully scrutinised for any repetition through the use of free anti-plagiarism computer programs.
To begin with, the campaign flat-out denied there was any plagiarism and representatives were angry and insulted that anyone would suggest such a thing — when the stark similarities were obvious to anyone who listened to the two speeches.
As an added embarrassment, the speech managed to puncture Trump's racial, anti-immigrant message accusing minorities of "ripping off" honest Americans.