The media went into meltdown this week over Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention this week.
As well as some highly amusing Twitter trolling, it seems views are now split on whether the speech was a huge PR gaffe or an example of brilliant political manoeuvring by the Trump team.
Tim Stanley writing in The Daily Telegraph thinks that the Trump camp actually orchestrated the whole thing to make Melania look like a first lady and to dominate the news cycle. He says: “For a start, forcing a comparison with Michelle Obama’s speech means that news outlets have been comparing the two ladies – elevating Melania overnight to the level of serious politician. The gaffe has forced us to consider her qualities in a way we would otherwise never do.”
Not everyone agrees though with many calling for the speechwriter, Meredith McIver, to be fired. Ms McIver eventually came forward with an apology and her resignation, which the Trump’s turned down.
In a statement, Ms McIver said: “A person she [Melania] 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.” McIver also added: “This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant.”
Ms McIver admitted that she never crosschecked the text for duplicated lines from the first lady’s speeches which I think is a huge error of judgement especially given that Melania had read some of the Michelle Obama’s speeches to her during a briefing.
Speechwriting is a PR discipline and plagiarising isn’t acceptable even if it was a mistake. In the same way that a press officer would get sign-off for a press release, checking the authenticity and originality of a speech should just be in all a day’s work for a speechwriter.
Barack Obama and Pope Francis could have endorsed Donald Trump on the first day of the Republican Convention and the headline would still be Melania Trump’s speech and questions of plagiarism. The margin for error in high-stakes communications is zero. Fair or not, a well-stitched message can be wholly unraveled by a single thread. It was a terrible mistake, regardless of how it came about and whether or not it was plagiarism, and the Trump communications staff deserves 100% of the blame.