Here we go again. After Melania Trump officially unveiled her anti-cyberbullying campaign, the first lady is at the center of a conversation that revolves around plagiarism. That conversation began after multiple media outlets, including the BBC, noted that Melania Trump's anti-bullying booklet resembled a similar booklet made by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) under President Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, May 8, the White House hit back against the suggestion of plagiarism from the "opposition media." The statement read,
After giving a strong speech that was met with a standing ovation and positive feedback, the focus from opposition media has been on an educational booklet, 'Talking with Kids About Being Online' produced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2009. Mrs. Trump agreed to add Be Best branding and distribute the booklet in an effort to use her platform to amplify the positive message within. As she said in yesterday’s speech, she is going to use Be Best to promote people and organizations to encourage conversation and replication, and helping the FTC distribute this booklet is just one small example.
According to the BBC, the booklet was first presented as one produced "by First Lady Melania Trump and the Federal Trade Commission." The booklet was later changed to be described as a "Federal Trade Commission booklet, promoted by First Lady Melania Trump," the BBC reports.
The conversation is made all the more awkward by the fact that there is an obvious history between Melania and the subject of plagiarism. In July 2016, after her speech at the Republican National Convention, multiple media members noticed that the speech featured passages that resembled parts of former first lady Michelle Obama's speech from the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
That speech resulted in a bizarre episode that saw Trump campaign surrogates — including soon-to-be press secretary Sean Spicer — go on television defending the speech. A speechwriter would ultimately admit to plagiarizing from Obama's speech.
This present day instance is like the June 2016 speech: Probably insignificant, ultimately, but a very silly mistake to make.
The White House's statement this week nevertheless struck a combative tone.
"Despite providing countless outlets with ample background, information, and on-the-record comments from the FTC, some media have chosen to take a day meant to promote kindness and positive efforts on behalf of children, to instead lob baseless accusations towards the First Lady and her new initiatives," the statement read.
The point made by the White House is clear, the booklet made by the FTC makes points that are in line with Melania Trump's Be Best initiative.
The unveiling of Be Best on Monday, May 7, continued a trend of first ladies starting initiatives that are primarily based on the well being of children. Former first lady Laura Bush focused on literacy. Michelle Obama emphasized children's fitness. And now, Melania Trump is focusing on cyberbullying.
As she starts the campaign, there have been people repeating a popular line of criticism: that President Donald Trump acts like a cyberbully.
"Now that @FLOTUS has started her 'Be Best' program to promote kindness and to counter cyber bullying, every now and then I will provide examples of what is not a Be Best tweet," tweeted California representative and vocal Trump critic Ted Lieu. "First example is below."
"She is aware of the critics, but it will not stop her from doing what she believes is best if it means helping children," Melania Trump's spokesperson Stephanie Grisham tells Elite Daily about the first lady's initiative.
In fact, in March, Melania Trump addressed that criticism herself.
"I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic. I have been criticized for my commitment to tackling this issue, and I know that will continue," she said. "But it will not stop me for doing what I know is right,” she said in opening remarks. We have to find a better way to talk to each other, to disagree with each other, to respect each other."
While she works to find that better way, she'll likely hope that the following days are a little less awkward than the first day after Be Best's unveiling.