New plagiarism row for Melania Trump as pamphlet bears uncanny likeness to 2014 version
A booklet published by Melania Trump’s new campaign for children’s online safety bears an uncanny resemblance to a document released under Barack Obama’s administration.
Donald Trump’s wife gave an opening night address at the Republican National Convention in 2016 that was partly plagiarised from a speech by then first lady Michelle Obama.
Melania’s initiative, Be Best, which launched on Monday, has a page on the official White House website that said near the bottom: “Parents, click here to read Talking with Kids about Being Online, a booklet by First Lady Melania Trump and the Federal Trade Commission.”
Later, in an apparent damage limitation exercise following a backlash on social media, the website’s language was changed to describe the pamphlet as “a Federal Trade Commission booklet, promoted by First Lady Melania Trump”.
A White House official confirmed that the wording on the website had been changed, offering an explanation that “there seemed to be confusion so we wanted to be clear”.
Visitors who click on the link are taken to a PDF file of a booklet that is almost identical to one first published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2014 under the title: Net Cetera – Chatting with Kids About Being Online.
Their front covers, an array of 16 symbols in grey and orange, are the same except for a minor tweak to images of mobile phones to make them look more like iPhones. This upgrade has been carried out throughout the booklet.
The 2018 document, part of Melania’s initiative unveiled in the White House rose garden on Monday, includes a preface accompanied by her photo and signature. “The lessons in this booklet can help kids act thoughtfully and kindly,” she writes.
But the following pages, full of advice for parents of “tweets” and “teens”, suggest her input was vanishingly small. They both include, “Talk to your teens about avoiding sex talk online,” and “Talk to your kids about bullying.” But the updated version has an addition: “Tell your kids to talk to you about bullying, too.”
The original FTC handbook has a heading that says: “Sexting: Don’t Do It.” The new handbook says just: “Sexting.”
In the 2016 plagiarism row at the Republican convention, junior aide Meredith McIver eventually took responsibility for the error, saying that Melania had read passages of Michelle Obama’s speeches to her over the phone and she had included some of the phrasing in the final draft.