No, Michelle Obama did not ‘plagiarize’ her 2008 DNC speech

In the wake of Melania Trump’s RNC plagiarism scandal, Trump supporters have been scouring the Internet looking for examples of their most hated liberal politicians committing the same breach of ethics that the GOP’s potential First Lady did.

Some think they’ve found that example in the very speech that Malania was accused of borrowing from – the speech Michelle Obama gave at the 2008 Democratic Convention.

The conservative outlet Breitbart.com claimed in an article this Tuesday that in the ’08 DNC speech, the current First Lady lifted portions of her text from the 1971 Saul Alinsky book Rules for Radicals.

In the article titled “Michelle Obama Copied Alinsky In Speech Melania Trump Allegedly Plagiarized,” author Joel B. Pollack lists a number of alleged liberal plagiarism scandals, along with what he claims to be Michelle Obama’s.

As Snopes.com points out, Breitbart’s claims of “plagiarism” amount to “two turns of phrase that Alinsky and Mrs. Obama both incorporated into a single sentence but used in different ways.”

In Rules for Radicals, Alinsky wrote: “The standards of judgment must be rooted in the whys and wherefores of life as it is lived, the world as it is, not our wished-for fantasy of the world as it should be.”

In her 2008 speech, the First Lady said: “And Barack stood up that day, and he spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about the world as it is and the world as it should be. And he said that all too often we accept the distance between the two, and we settle for the world as it is, even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 12.55.42 PM

From Snopes:

A simplistic comparison of Alinksy and Mrs. Obama’s uses of “the world as it is” and “the world as it should be” (phrases that were arguably exceedingly common in concept for policy speeches) suggested a surface likeness. But Alinsky’s purportedly plagiarized half-sentence was part of a passage about adopting a realistic approach to “the world as it is” versus “the world as it should be.” By contrast, Michelle Obama was paraphrasing her husband’s lamenting acceptance of “the world as it is” when “the world as it should be … reflect[ed] our values and aspirations” and was not expressing it as her own thought.

You’d think that an established media outlet would understand how to apply the definition of plagiarism, but then again, it’s Breitbart.



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