CLEVELAND, OH (AP) – A speechwriter for Donald Trump’s company said Wednesday she made a mistake in using passages from a 2008 Michelle Obama speech in the Republican Party convention speech delivered by Melania Trump.
In a statement issued by the campaign, Meredith McIver took the blame but made it clear that Mrs. Trump knew the passages were from the first lady’s speech.
“A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama,” McIver says of Mrs. Trump. “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.”
Questions about plagiarism hung over the opening days of the GOP convention, overshadowing Mrs. Trump’s performance, which had enthralled the convention delegates. The statement came after the campaign spent two days insisting that it wasn’t plagiarism and calling the criticism absurd.
The pushback from the Trump campaign was hard. At one point, campaign co-chairman Paul Manafort blamed Hillary Clinton for the controversy, though he offered no coherent theory on how she could have orchestrated it.
McIver, co-author of some of Donald Trump’s books, said she offered to resign but the Republican nominee for president refused to accept her resignation.
The controversy erupted on social media Monday night after her speech as sharp-eyed viewers expressed outrage over the similarities. It continued Tuesday as the Trump campaign’s explanation failed to mollify critics.
The passages in question came near the beginning of Mrs. Trump’s nearly 15-minute speech.
In one example, Mrs. Trump said: “From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect.”
Eight years ago, Mrs. Obama said: “And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: like, you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond, that you do what you say you’re going to do, that you treat people with dignity and respect.”
There were similar overlaps in a passage dealing with conveying to children that there is no limit to what they can achieve. Mrs. Trump’s address was otherwise distinct from the speech that Mrs. Obama gave when her husband was being nominated for president.
For Mrs. Trump, 46, a Slovenian-born former model who is Donald Trump’s third wife and 24 years his junior, the controversy marred a moment in the spotlight that had been months in the making.
The speech required her to overcome her wariness about public speaking and the traditional role of the politician’s wife, as well as her heavily accented English, to present herself to the public as her husband’s partner, a poised mother and wife passionate about issues impacting women and children.
“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 to Mrs. Obama,” McIver said. “No harm was meant.”
McIver was described in the statement as an “in-house staff writer at the Trump Organization.”
McIver started at the Trump Organization in 2001, according to her profile on the website of a booking agency called the All American Speakers Bureau.
Before that, she worked on Wall Street, according to the profile. She is originally from San Jose, California. The profile says she trained at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet and graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in English.
“I asked to put out this statement because I did not like seeing the way this was distracting from Mr. Trump’s historic campaign for president and Melania’s beautiful message and presentation,” McIver said.
She apologized for “the confusion and hysteria my mistake has caused.”