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GOP Delegate & Schoolteacher: Melania Trump Gets a “Zero” for Plagiarizing Michelle Obama Speech

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On Monday night, Donald Trump’s wife Melania Trump gave the keynote address. But the speech was not without controversy. Many commentators have accused Melania Trump of plagiarizing parts of first lady Michelle Obama’s speech from the 2008 Democratic National Convention. We ask two Republican delegates for their reaction.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, last night, Donald Trump was on the floor of the convention, on the stage, because he was introducing his wife Melania, who was giving her first major speech. I think the—90 seconds was the longest speech she had given before. She got up on the stage. She spoke. She gave the keynote address. But the speech was not without controversy. Many commentators have accused Melania Trump, or her speechwriter—not clear who did this—of plagiarizing parts of Michelle Obama’s speech that she gave in 2008 at the Democratic National Convention there. This clip compares the two speeches, beginning with Michelle Obama.

MICHELLE OBAMA: Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values, like you work hard for what you want in life.

MELANIA TRUMP: The values that you work hard for what you want in life.

MICHELLE OBAMA: That your word is your bond, that you do what you say you’re going to do.

MELANIA TRUMP: That your word is your bond, and you do what you say and keep your promise.

MICHELLE OBAMA: That you treat people with dignity and respect.

MELANIA TRUMP: That you treat people with respect.

MICHELLE OBAMA: 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 hard for them.

MELANIA TRUMP: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: So, here you have Michelle Obama 2008, Melania Trump today, 2016. Clearly, the words the same. Kendal Unruh, your response?

KENDAL UNRUH: Well, I’m a teacher. If there’s plagiarism, she gets a zero. Unfortunately, the buzz should have been about the speech itself. And it’s not. It’s about the tactics of how it was comprised. Once again, it goes to show that the inner workings of the Trump campaign are in disarray, because that is a huge no-no. And if you are going to plagiarize, why don’t you plagiarize from a conservative icon and not quote Michelle Obama? This is a problem, because this—whenever you have shifted the debate from something that you’re supposed to be talking about, when—it’s called a bump. You’re going to want to get a little bit of bump out of the first—the potential first lady’s speech. And yet, here’s the criticism of it. And that’s what he wanted to avoid. But obviously, whatever staffer did this—now, I heard that she claimed that she wrote the speech herself, which actually makes this even doubly troubling, if she—double troubling, if she thought that cutting and pasting was actually the way to effectively communicate to an audience, because this created a blowback that I’m sure they did not anticipate.

AMY GOODMAN: The Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, finally spoke up this morning and said something about this isn’t plagiarism, these are common words. Raju, your response to this? You’ve heard the exact words being repeated.

RAJU CHINTHALA: I think the—Mrs. Trump spoke very well, she being an immigrant from another country, immigrated and waited for a long time. And she explained how she came here and worked hard and met Trump. And that, itself, will speak for America, what America is for, and an immigrant coming here and raising up to and potentially first lady. I think she wanted to bring all people together within the party. She talked about education. She talked about job. And she talked about her husband, how good her husband is as a person.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you concerned about this, the—using the exact wording of Michelle Obama’s speech from—

RAJU CHINTHALA: No, no. I mean, that is true, that every kid—every kid needs education. Every kid needs to be taken care of and provide the lifestyle what we all have. And if—and also, she said about—

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think she should have just quoted her and said, “To quote the first lady, Michelle Obama,” and then—

RAJU CHINTHALA: I don’t think it’s exact words. It’s the content.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, as we heard, it was, in many cases, the exact words.

RAJU CHINTHALA: The content of that. But I think what she meant is to, as a first lady, if potential and when she becomes, what her charity programs or what she will do. And those are like the things that a first lady will be doing.

KENDAL UNRUH: Can I address that? Because, actually, this goes to the heart of who Donald Trump is anyway. He has vociferously defended the way that he makes a living, through eminent domain, stealing other people’s property. So, this is just par for the course. What is wrong with stealing other people’s property, if it suits your needs and the outcome of what you’re trying to obtain? That’s what the whole world got to see.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’e going to leave it there. I want to thank you both for being with us. Our guests have been Kendal Unruh, who is a Colorado delegate—she’s really led the charge for Never Trump. Is it over?

KENDAL UNRUH: No, it’s not over. We’re actually going to be challenging the vote delegations from the—the tallies, when they are submitted tonight, to the chairman of the convention, from the delegation chairs. We get to challenge that, because they’re not going to be accurately reflected of the votes in the delegations themselves.

RAJU CHINTHALA: So what it means is, primary, we should just take out the primary election at all in this country.

KENDAL UNRUH: A primary is a preference poll; it’s not a ballot vote.

RAJU CHINTHALA: And then, delegates should just come to the convention and vote at the convention, so that we don’t have this process, we don’t have this many candidates touring and spending all this money around the state.

AMY GOODMAN: Because, Raju’s saying, it would nullify the primaries.


KENDAL UNRUH: Well, a primary is just a preference poll. It’s not an actual vote.

RAJU CHINTHALA: That’s what it is. Then why should we have a primary and spending our taxpayers’ money?

KENDAL UNRUH: Do away with the primaries, I agree.

RAJU CHINTHALA: Taxpayers’ money on these, and then the candidates who won a majority of the delegates and majority of the votes around the country, and now we are saying no Trump. I mean, he is the nominee of the Republican Party.

KENDAL UNRUH: But just so you know, your candidate—

RAJU CHINTHALA: And also, he selected a vice-presidential candidate who is going to add value. I know both are saying he’s different, he’s different. But that’s what we need. The Republican Party needs a good candidate. Right now, we have—whatever is we have is the best candidate we have in the party. And party needs to be united.

KENDAL UNRUH: Well, but—

RAJU CHINTHALA: And convention is a part of it. But if that’s what RNC wants, or the people of delegates wants, so they need to change—and not this election, but next coming election, after maybe 2020.

KENDAL UNRUH: But your candidate—

RAJU CHINTHALA: They can change and—rules, and eliminate this primary elections at all from February to May.

KENDAL UNRUH: But your candidate—excuse me, your candidate actually pushed through the rules for primaries to remain open, and a blanket primaries. He killed that. We tried to shut him down. He made sure that the very thing that he benefited from—and that was the open primaries and the blanket primaries—were Democrats and independents, chose this Trojan horse candidate for us. And now we, as delegates, have the job and the duty to either rubber-stamp what was given to us by a preference poll or not. That is our job as delegates.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, you didn’t even have a presidential poll in Colorado. Is that right?

KENDAL UNRUH: Well, it was a straw poll, which is nonbinding anyway. We have a caucus system that has worked for over a hundred years. I went out, and I campaigned. I spent thousands of my own dollars getting voters to vote for me. And that was a series of four different elections. And when Donald Trump had the chance to come in and re-establish some type of rapport with Colorado, when he had the opportunity, once again, he stuck the knife in and lied that we didn’t have an election. And we did.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it—

RAJU CHINTHALA: So, like, where was the voice when he—

AMY GOODMAN: Ten seconds.

RAJU CHINTHALA: Where was the voice when he put the nomination? Because everybody goes through the Republican Party to be—put them on ballot. And that’s where we should have a voice, if that is the case. So now it’s too late. Trump-Pence for November election, and we are going to win.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to continue to follow this debate. I want to thank Raju Chinthala, who is a speech pathologist in Indiana, an Indiana Republican delegate backing Donald Trump; Kendal Unruh from Colorado, leader of the Never Trump movement.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Baltimore, Maryland, to the Freddie Gray case. Stay with us.

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