Something went wrong Monday night at the RNC, when Melania Trump gave a speech that sounded suspiciously similar to Michelle Obama's 2008 DNC speech. But more than 24 hours later, we still don't know who is responsible for the controversy. At the convention in Cleveland, we heard many possible explanations, most of them defensive of Melania. The internet is full of a ideas, too. Below our nine different ways to explain what happened.
- It was just a coincidence. Some people deny that it was plagiarized at all. Trump's campaign manager planted the seed for this theory, saying "These are common words and values — that she cares about her family, things like that." RNC chairman Reince Priebus agreed: "Some of these things are pretty common types of themes." This theory was popular among many delegates we talked to in Cleveland the morning after.
- The official speechwriters added the paragraph and no one caught it. According to an extensive report in The New York Times about how the speech was crafted, Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner, hired two seasoned speech writers, Matthew Scully and John McConnell, to write a draft for Melania Trump. The Times reports that after they turned in a draft, the internal Trump team worked on revisions without their input. While it's possible the official speechwriters added the cribbed section into their original draft and no one caught it, it's standard for professional speechwriters to use (free) software to detect unintentional similarities or plagiarism. Plus, sources say Melania used almost none of their draft.
- A Trump confidant added it in and no one caught it. According to The New York Times, Melania turned to trusted Trump ghostwriter Meredith McIver once she got the original draft. McIver worked with Trump on books like Think Like a Billionaire. It is also possible that McIver, or someone else trusted by Melania and Donald, made the addition after the official speechwriters turned in their draft. Once again in this scenario, no one caught the similarities.
- Melania Trump added the paragraph and no one caught it. Before delivering the speech, Melania Trump proudly told NBC's Matt Lauer that she wrote most of her speech herself: "I read once over it and that's all, because I wrote it, and with as little help as possible." The New York Times reporting suggests that Melania attempted to personalize the speech once she got the initial draft. It's possible that she came across Michelle Obama's speech during her research and clumsily paraphrased it. Then, the Trump campaign failed to catch the similarities, neglecting to use the commonplace software or detailed fact-checking process.
- It's because she's not a native English speaker. Katrina Pierson, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, offered this explanation: "English is not her native tongue, and she really wanted to communicate to Americans in phrases that they've heard before." This seems to imply Melania did it on purpose to be better understood.
- It was sabotage. Being caught plagiarizing is bad. Being caught plagiarizing the wife of your husband's political rival is even more damaging. So why would Melania Trump or anyone in the Trump organization allow this to happen? Maybe because they were trying to undermine the campaign given that there's been drama lately.
Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was just ousted in June. Assuming he wanted to embarrass his internal adversaries, maybe Lewandowski called on people loyal to him inside the Trump campaign to plant the plagiarism. He has been calling for accountability for the mistake and suggested his replacement, Manafort, be fired. Or, maybe an insider with a different motive made it happen. More evidence that it was intentional? The speech also included a Rickroll.
- Trump did it on purpose because he's a genius. This was another popular theory among the faithful in Cleveland. The story goes that Trump actually orchestrated the controversy to get more 24/7 free media coverage and also help make Melania seem more first-lady like after being placed side by side with Michelle Obama. He may have also wanted to distract from delegate clashes on the floor earlier in the day.
- It's Hillary Clinton's fault. Not sure how she did it, but Hillary Clinton was offered as an early explanation by campaign manager Paul Manafort. "This is, once again, an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton how she seeks to demean her and take her down,"
- It's the media's fault. On the convention floor, Tuesday, a Florida delegate told us, "I understand there are 58 words that were identical and the media took those words and put them side by side. The rest of her speech was not and I think shame on the media for not pointing out the originality of her speech."
Good news is Melania's speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 20, 2016