Melania Trump's 'Be Best' materials have a familiar ring to them

Oops, she did it again.

Supporting materials presented Monday in conjunction with Melania Trump’s “Be Best” youth initiative turn out to have been lifted from a 2014 Federal Trade Commission pamphlet.

Titled “Talking with Kids About Being Online,” Trump’s document, which was distributed as part of the “Be Best” rollout, relies on the same graphic design and wording as the FTC’s “Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online.” Trump’s pamphlet also contains an introductory letter by the first lady, advising parents to “communicate your values clearly so your kids can make thoughtful decisions when they face tricky situations.”

(See entire documents below.)

The similarities are far from cursory. For instance, the FTC’s 2014 document contains the following paragraph on the topic of sexting:

“Sending or forwarding sexually explicit photos, videos, or messages from a mobile device is known as ‘sexting.’ Tell your kids not to do it. In addition to risking their reputation and their friendships, they could be breaking the law if they create, forward, or even save this kind of message. Teens may be less likely to make a bad choice if they know the consequences.”

Melania Trump’s version contains that same text, word for word; this is also seen in other passages, such as one on the dangers of “oversharing.”

U.S. first lady Melania Trump delivers remarks at the “launch of her Be Best initiatives in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 7, 2018. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
U.S. first lady Melania Trump delivers remarks at the “launch of her Be Best initiatives in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 7, 2018. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

From the FTC document:

“Some pitfalls that come with online socializing are sharing too much information, or posting pictures, videos, or words that can damage a reputation or hurt someone’s feelings. Applying real-world judgment and sense can help minimize those downsides.”

From “Talking with Kids About Being Online”:

“Some pitfalls that come with online socializing are sharing too much information, or posting pictures, videos, or words that can damage a reputation or hurt someone’s feelings.”

The FTC, however, seemed unfazed by the use of their document.

“Today, First Lady Melania Trump introduced her initiative to help children everywhere be their best. At her launch event at the White House, the First Lady distributed copies of Talking with Kids About Being Online, a guide to help parents and other adults have thoughtful conversations with kids about being safe and responsible online. We’re excited that the First Lady is sharing this important information with families across the country,”  Nat Wood, an associate director at the FTC wrote in a blog post Monday afternoon. “The FTC worked with children’s advocates, tech companies, and law enforcers to come up with the advice in the guide. They told us that while kids value the opinion of their peers, most tend to rely on their parents for help on the issues that matter most. That advice has proven true over the years. That’s why many school systems have shared it with every middle school student.”

Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s communications director, released a lengthy statement scolding the media for pointing out the similarities.

“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,” Grishman said. “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.

“Our office will continue to focus on helping children,” Grishman added, “and I encourage members of the media to attempt to Be Best in their own professions.”

Of course, this is not the first time that Melania Trump has been accused of repurposing Obama-era lines. An analysis of her speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention revealed that she closely hewed to Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech before the Democratic National Convention.

On her Twitter feed, the first lady was quick to post a video advertising the rollout of “Be Best”; however, it did not contain any audio or links to outside material. Maybe that was a smart decision.

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Federal Trade Commission brochure – 2014

Net Cetera 2014

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Brochure released by the office of the First Lady – 2018

Talking With Kids About Being Online 2018

 

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