Melania Speechgate: Women Take the Fall


(New York Times)

(New York Times)

I won’t lie. I’ve joined the thousands in chuckling at the >>side by side comparisons of Michelle Obama’s and Melania Trump’s convention speeches. In fact I’m a little bleary-eyed as I write this because last night it seemed like a good idea to surf around for every Late Night commentary on the matter at midnight.

Everyone is asking … how could this happen? Didn’t they realize we’d know? Who put her up to this?

Wednesday, a longtime employee of the Trump Organization took the fall in a public letter of apology. (I’ll avoid mentioning her name, because I’m not sure it’s relevant.) I’m not sure her admission makes me feel any better, or really explains what happened. Who knows where the truth lies? Does the responsibility solely fall on the employee? How much influence did Melania have? Were there other more senior employees involved that she’s covering up for? In her letter released from the Trump campaign the speech writer says she did not realize how much of the writing was lifted from Michelle Obama’s speech.

“In working with Melania Trump on her recent First Lady speech, we discussed many people who inspired her and messages she wanted to share with the American people. A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama. Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as Mrs. Obama.”

Maybe it’s because I’m a jaded veteran journalist, or that I worked in Washington and have seen how it works – but I find it VERY hard to believe that the speech came down to one person; one woman, who is now taking the fall. Donald Trump is the Republican Nominee. Are you telling me that NO ONE reviewed that speech after it was completed? That is the job of a Communications Director. Beyond that, is it plausible that Mrs. Trump didn’t rehearse at all in front of ears that might have picked that up?

Here’s my conclusion – based on experience and admittedly limited facts of the specific situation since I’m not, and wouldn’t, work for the Trump campaign. That speech was written, in the hopes the words would stick – that the message would motivate and inspire – that perhaps although the words would seem familiar to some of us – but no one would cross reference potential First Lady speeches.

And as the dust settles over the next few days – who is holding the bag? Two women. Two women forced to say “I’m sorry,” and “oops, my bad” – when it would have been a man (really men) who would benefit if the little ruse had worked. I wonder if those same women would have been held up as geniuses  for a great speech if no one had discovered the plagiarism. 

And stepping off of my soapbox and away from the RNC platform … I wonder how often this happens in life? How often are women left holding the bag? I know I’ve been forced to do it in my prior workplaces? I catch myself at work, and even in my marriage taking the blame for something – just because it’s easier to do, or at times I’ve felt like I had to.

I have a hunch that there will be more to come on this in coming days. And as a side note that’s worth mentioning – it is keeping us from discussing the GOP platform which is unfortunate. As the truth unfolds – and I believe it will ultimately reveal itself – let’s challenge ourselves to stop apologizing so much.

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