Friday, January 19, 2018
Politics

The laid-off journalist that was first to call Melania Trump's speech plagiarism used to be a Tampa Bay reporter

Jarrett Hill was sitting in a Los Angeles Starbucks scrolling through Twitter and answering Facebook messages while listening to Melania Trump's speech at the Republican National Convention on Monday night.

Something made him stop. It was the phrase "strength of your dreams."

"It kind of made me pause for a minute," Hill told The New York Times. "I remembered that line from Michelle Obama's speech."

Soon the 31-year-old was taking his thoughts to Twitter. He was the first to call Melania Trump's words plagiarism. His main tweet showing the similarities between her speech and Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic convention in 2008 has been shared more than 23,000 times.

Not bad for a guy chilling at a coffee shop.

Except, Hill is actually a trained journalist who not long ago was laid off from a broadcast job. According to his LinkedIn profile, his last on-air job was with Tampa station WFTS, on The Now Tampa Bay for nine months between 2014-15.

Now, he lives in L.A. He calls himself a host, journalist and interior designer within his Twitter bio — but many in the industry seem to be hoping that changes. Hill, who spent Tuesday in and out of TV interviews, received several tweets saying he should get a broadcast job offer after this.

Hill could not immediately be reached by the Tampa Bay Times for comment.

Despite the hundreds of paid journalists at the convention in Cleveland, it was Hill who noticed the stark parallels. Hill brought up the clip of Michelle Obama's speech online and realized that it wasn't just a line that was similar, but a large portion of the speech that appeared to be the same.

"I thought, 'That's legit plagiarism,'" Hill said to The New York Times. "Someone took this piece and plugged in their own information.'"

Melania Trump told NBC News earlier Monday she wrote the speech herself and focused on her upbringing in Slovenia. The Trump campaign said several times Tuesday the speech was not plagiarism and gave explanations for the overlaps.

"These are values, Republican values by the way, of hard work, determination, family values, dedication and respect, and that's Melania Trump," campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson told The Hill on video. "This concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd."

To journalist Hill, there's no debate on whether the speech qualified as plagiarism. And he seems to be enjoying the attention that comes after breaking a big story. (What reporter wouldn't?)

At least he can count on his mom to keep him in check. On Twitter Tuesday, he said his mom told him, "I'm proud of your active listening (when you want to listen)."

If you want to compare the speech for yourself, the key passages are below:

Michelle Obama, in her 2008 speech:

"Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them. And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

Melania Trump, Monday night:

"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. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

Michelle Obama, in 2008:

"And I come here as a daughter — raised on the South Side of Chicago by a father who was a blue-collar city worker and a mother who stayed at home with my brother and me. My mother's love has always been a sustaining force for our family, and one of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion and her intelligence reflected in my own daughters.

Melania Trump, on Monday night:

"I was born in Slovenia, a small, beautiful and then-Communist country in Central Europe. My sister, Ines, who is an incredible woman and a friend, and I were raised by my wonderful parents. My elegant and hardworking mother, Amalija, introduced me to fashion and beauty. My father, Viktor, instilled in me a passion for business and travel. Their integrity, compassion and intelligence reflects to this day on me and for my love of family and America."

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] or (727) 893-8862. Follow @sara_dinatale.

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