Was it shoddy speechwriting? Or, wild coincidence? Will heads roll?
Talk of suspicious similarities between Melania Trump’s Monday speech at the Republican National Convention, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s address to the Democrats’ 2008 convention wasn’t just the fixation of TV cable news pundits. In the streets of Cleveland, convention delegates, Trump supporters and souvenir vendors were buzzing about the controversy and PEOPLE was in on the conversation:
JoAnn McCracken, delegate from Houston
“I thought she has a stupid speechwriter who should have been fired immediately. It was very sad because they made us look like idiots. One speechwriter can really mess up your life as we all know, right?” As for Mrs. Obama being the one evidently echoed, “It’s absolutely incredibly insulting and stupid. The words were good, but I’m not a Democrat so I never heard it from Michelle. It is a sad, sad day for the Trump campaign.”
Johnna Beuerlein, delegate guest from Jackson, Tenn.
“I feel certain that was written by someone in the campaign or a speechwriter. I never saw any comparisons because I was listening to her message, not her words. It bothers me that maybe somebody didn’t know – or maybe they did know. I’m not going to go so far to say someone should lose their job. But I certainly think they need to do their homework. It would be hard to believe that you wouldn’t compare when the words are so similar.”
“We all do it. We’ve all written papers and not used our exact words .But in this platform, I think it was probably really important that that didn’t happen for optic reasons.”
Dale Rambler, delegate from MontanaMrs. Trump “was really good. I came up with a new term. There’s ‘Make America Great Again,’ ‘Make America Safe Again.’ And mine is, ‘Make the White House Beautiful Again.’ I don’t think that’s really plagiarism. People a lot of times use the same words.”
Ron Walters, delegate from West Virginia
“Let’s move forward. Have you ever met a woman who doesn’t love children? We just need to get along and move on and live with what we’ve done.”
Jeff Johns, Cedarsburg, Wisc.
“It’s ridiculous that the media is focusing on bits and pieces of her speech. There were many wonderful speeches and I woke up this morning and all MSNBC and CNN are focusing on is this speech from Melania.”
Judy Baldasaro, delegate from New Hampshire
“She was very poised and what we need is dignity in the office and she will bring that. If we are raised in an environment where we have a happy and a very well upbringing, we will have similar stories. We will have similar words to describe that. So if she said that she had a background similar to Michelle Obama, it should be a compliment to both women. I don’t see that it has to be considered a plagiarism.”
Dean Stoecker, delegate from Orange County, Calif.
“She didn’t write her own speech, I’m sure. She didn’t go back to see who said what before. It’s actually disappointing that the media us focusing on such a ridiculous issue.”
Susan Reneau, alternate delegate from Montana
“She spoke from her heart. I could tell. …I didn’t see anything in her speech that struck me as copying anybody. I think there are people who would like to tear her down. …And I loved her dress. I loved the pouf!”
Ken Hosner, political memorabilia collector and vendor from Michigan who is a Democrat
“You mean, what did I think of Michelle’s speech? Melania did a good job of presenting it, but when you go through line after line after line, phrase after phrase after phrase it makes you wonder. Didn’t your people vet the speech and write the speech? In the scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal, probably. But it certainly was poor judgment on somebody’s part.”
Eddie Arnold, Arkansas
“She was very classy with what she did, how she said it. Now, if she had a speechwriter to do that and she wasn t aware that it had been written before, some of that, then I don t know. But what she said I liked – whether it was plagiarized or not.”
Donald Trump Jr.
Finally, Donald Trump Jr. chose to shed some light on Melania’s speech snafu from the previous night, telling CBS News that any similarities between Melania and Michelle Obama’s speech were caused by speechwriters, although Melania previously stated that she worked on the piece with “as little help as possible.”
“I imagine there’s people who shouldn’t have done that or who should have cleaned it up better,” he said. “Having never done this before you have to work with speechwriters. Those are the people that did this.”