Melania Trump has once again landed in a plagiarism row. This time, over her “Be Best” initiative, which she launched Monday. The campaign aims to address various issues involving children including opioid abuse, social media pressures, and mental health issues.
However, the positives of the ambitious initiative were overshadowed by allegations of plagiarism as a booklet released by the first lady as part of the launch was found to be identical to a document released by Barack Obama’s administration five years back.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden after unveiling the campaign Monday, Melania said, “Children deserve every opportunity to enjoy their innocence.”
“I feel strongly that as adults we can and should be best at educating our children about the importance of a healthy and balanced life. As a mother and as first lady, it concerns me that in today’s fast-paced and ever-connected world, children can be less prepared to express or manage their emotions and oftentimes turn to forms of destructive or addictive behavior such as bullying, drug addiction, or even suicide,” she added, the Guardian reported.
Following her speech, President Donald Trump said, “That was truly a beautiful and heartfelt speech.”
However, Melania couldn’t impress critics who were quick to notice a striking similarity in the slogan “Be Best” to that of Michelle Obama’s “Be Better” idea. While speaking to Oprah Winfrey at the White House Summit on the United State of Women in June 2016, the former first lady called on men in the workplace to “be better.”
First Lady Melania Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, May 7, 2018. Trump outlined her new initiatives, known as the “Be Best” program, during the event. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
That was not the only problem with the “Be Best” plan. The contents of the handbook released as part of the campaign were almost as same as the one issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2014 under the Obama administration, but for the introduction written by Melania.
“The lessons in this booklet can help kids act thoughtfully and kindly. I hope you will use it to have conversations with children about appropriate conduct online and about using social media responsibly,” the introduction reads.
Even their front covers and heading were almost similar. The heading of the FTC handbook was “Sexting: Don’t Do It,” while it was just “Sexting” for the “Be Best” handbook. Both included valuable advises for the parents of “tweens” and “teens” like “Talk to your teens about avoiding sex talk online,” and “Talk to your kids about bullying,” etc.
A link on the homepage of the “Be Best” initiative’s page on the White House website initially said: “Parents, click here to read Talking with Kids about Being Online, a booklet by First Lady Melania Trump and the Federal Trade Commission.”
Following social media backlash, the wording on the website was changed to “a Federal Trade Commission booklet, promoted by First Lady Melania Trump.” A White House official clarified that it was done as “there seemed to be confusion so we wanted to be clear.”
This is not the first time Melania has landed herself in a plagiarism controversy. Back in 2016, she faced accusations that her speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, was very identical to Michelle Obama’s convention address in 2008. Following this, a statement from Trump’s campaign was released stating the writers of the speech “took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking.”
Later, an employee of the Trump Organization, Meredith McIver, said she wrote the speech for Melania.
“This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused,” she said then.
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