February 18th, 2008
03:07 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama, Clinton camps point to 'borrowed rhetoric'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/18/art.obamaclinton.ap.jpg caption="The Clinton and Obama campaigns traded plagiarism allegations Monday."] (CNN) - Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s campaigns each accused the other of plagiarizing portions of their campaign speeches Monday, with the Clinton campaign accusing Obama of borrowing from a close supporter - and the Illinois senator’s campaign accusing his rival of lifting from Obama himself.

On a conference call with reporters, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said it was clear Obama had “lifted rhetoric” from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Portions of Patrick’s speeches during his gubernatorial run resemble some of Obama’s addresses this year.

“If you’re going to be talking about the value of words, the words ought to be your own,” said Wolfson.

In a statement this morning, Patrick said the two men often shared ideas and language with each other.

As Wolfson spoke, the Obama campaign hosted a competing conference call, during which campaign manager David Plouffe said Clinton was "denigrating the power of words."

The Obama camp also said Clinton had a pattern of borrowing some of the Illinois senator’s signature phrases, including “Yes, We Can” and “Fired Up, Ready to Go.”

They also circulated a YouTube video and list of these alleged instances to reporters still listening to Wolfson.

"...We have seen thousands and thousands of Iowans over the last week and we are fired up and we are ready to go because we know America is ready for change and the process starts right here in Iowa," says Clinton in the pre-Iowa caucuses clip circulated by the Obama campaign Monday.

UPDATE (1:45 p.m. ET): CNN's Chris Welch reports that Obama is playing down the allegations, telling reporters that he's written two books and most of his own speeches.

“Deval and I do trade ideas all the time, and you know he's occasionally used lines of mine, and I at a Jefferson Jackson dinner in Wisconsin used some words of his. And you know I would add I’ve noticed on occasion Sen. Clinton has used words of mine as well,” said Obama, adding, "...As I said before, I really don't think this is too big of a deal."

–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

soundoff (773 Responses)
  1. Mike, MD


    You all are not voting based on the issues!! Which is pathetic!!

    You are voting based on the fact that BILLARY visited your state!!



    February 18, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. brenda

    Do you remember how the Republicans excused everything Bush did?Remember how they still worshiped him even when nothing he did made sense to you?HOW DID THAT WORK OUT FOR YOU?

    February 18, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  3. virginia

    all of us are acting like kids this is why nothing gets done in america. if you are not going to vote for Obama don't vote. If you are not going to vote for clinton don't vote. If feel some of you are on obama and clinton camp writing in this is not cool. Look you guys are making them look and sound bad please stop now.


    February 18, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  4. steven j stevens

    to put is another way,,it was not hillary that brought the patrick story to light it was the media..so please do not put it on hillaris door step..go after the edia

    February 18, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. JD, Pittsburgh, PA

    Another day gone by and still no resolution for the Michigan and Florida voters and delegates. Unbelievable! The Democrats will lose the general election unless this issue is resolved soon! I can't believe I'm saying this. C'mon DNC!

    February 18, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. Toyin Isijola, Marietta, GA

    I really can't blame the Clinton's though, she has tried everything to be in the news. I do not think they want to be negative. They are broke, so they need some way to get in the news. Can we all just get along?........ouch I stole that line from Rodney King.

    February 18, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. Mary

    Don't these two make you real proud to be a Democrat ?

    February 18, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  8. hillary over obama




    February 18, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  9. Katie

    Isn't it interesting - the Hillary folks compare her "solutions" to Barack's "record". They should compare her record to his record. Why not investigate the legislative record for yurselves – it's all documented in the Library of Congress.

    Hillary's "record" is really Bill's record (he's not running for president, or is he?) - She couldn't get support for her health care "solutions". Where are the results of her legislative experience – her results, not Bills. Do you hear Michelle claiming credit for Barack's legislative record, never has – never will (too much integrity for that).

    February 18, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. dee

    Gee. Hillary must really know she's going to lose cause her whinning is really going up. Pretty soon she'll start the tears again to see if that will help her. The clintons need to go out to pasteur and let america forge ahead with a new fresh inspirational leader like Obama.

    February 18, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. Mike Richardson

    This is ridiculous. Barack Obama doesn't own a phrase like "Yes we can" and "Fired Up" Those are very common words that would be used in any campaign. There is a big difference between using similar words and using large portions of someone else's speech. When are Democrats going to realize this guy is nothing but hot air?! Hillary Clinton may not have the bright lights or great speeches but she has the intelligence, experience and understanding of the problems we face. Come on people, the ignorance is baffling! Let’s look at the numbers of votes up till now.... Clinton – 9,759,472 Obama – 8,260,332. That's a difference of 1,499,140 votes. The American people are speaking it's just that the media doesn't want them to be heard because they are caught up in the bright lights and hot air of the Obama Campaign!

    February 18, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. Joanne

    I dont particular like either one of the democrate candidates. Having Hiliary as president would be an end to the end. And Obama has no experience. He Keeps talking about changes but doesnt seem to mention any of them. Just, change, change , change. What change. He needs a lot more experience. And hiliary needs to go back to being a senator, even thought she hasnt really been doing that job well. Im democrate but I think Ill need to vote for mc cann, since he does care about the doldiers, because he use to be one. I really dont understand how people can vote for someone just because hes nice.

    February 18, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  13. The Commentator

    I'll be surprised if CNN posts this comment. But here it goes any way.

    The media is the one getting silly and petty. This is not an issue for either the Hillary or Obama campaign. It's just an attempt by the media to stir controversy between the candidates, just as Wolf Blitzer tried to stir controversy between them at the California debate when he asked Obama if Hillary was naive for voting for the Iraq war.

    February 18, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. Enrique

    Such pettiness. Is this how HIllary plans on leading our country on DAY ONE? Is this the type of experience we want in a president? Hillary's campaign is clearly desperate.

    February 18, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  15. kathleen, illinois

    The ship is sinking.

    OBAMA 2008

    February 18, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  16. hill

    Hillary, have some pride! It's obvious you copy Obama's speech.

    February 18, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  17. Mag. art. John Chacko Pallikunnel M.A. Fine Painting Mural Design

    I know well that Barak Obama will be the next US president, It's just an intuition but may come true! I do wish him all the best to be the best president of United states of America and he will keep the presidentship for two terms too. Because the Americans need a better future to serve their Nation and keep up with freedom and moral Values. I am very proud of Hilary Clinton and wish her all the best as a Governor like Schwazeneger in California and make the Americans great. I do wish them both more safety in compaining with great public. May God bless the American fellow men and women with a great President who is Young and carismatic to be with the families and Statesmen. I am not an American but I am keeping up with the American dream and keep a great feeling for social freedom and the power of ideas, which we could express in USA.
    John Chacko, Vienna, 17.02.2008

    February 18, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  18. Lee in Stafford, Texas

    I agree with "Coby Austin".....its odd that when Obama responds to a claim, only then is he considered to be whining.

    May people are saying that its over for Hilary–it isn't. Obama has not sealed the victory, but he is getting closer, and his momentum is getting stronger with every stop he makes.

    Hilary needs to realize that she is losing supporters b/c of the way she is allowing her PR team to go 'tit for tat' with the Obama PR team.

    Hilary's strength, at least at the onset, was experience and policy. She was "read to get to work from day one" and had extensive policy knowledge. She has gotten away from that, and it may very well cost her the election.

    With regards to Obama, remember that if people get so desperate, as many Americans seem to be, then words alone can be enough to inspire the imagination of the electorate.

    Very simple. Democrats do not like support Republicans, and Hilary has alienated many of her base by resulting to "school yard" politics.

    February 18, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  19. Dan A

    THere goes Howard Wulfson grasping at straws again-Get a REAL
    JOB Howie !!!

    February 18, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  20. Jonathan Forbes--Independent

    This is ridiculous of Obama saying that Hillary using the phrase "Yes we can" is plagiarism. Did he register that phrase as a trademark or something? No way. Here, I really think that the Clinton camp has more of a right to call Obama on plagiarism than Obama has a right to call Clinton on it.

    These attacks between Obama and Clinton are really quite insane. I can't help but say "grow up Babies!"

    Perhaps we should find someone more grown up than these two–maybe John McCain. Remember, we CAN stop this power-hungry woman and empty-talking man.

    YES WE CAN! (But maybe Obama is going to accuse me of stealing his quotes now)

    February 18, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  21. Tony V


    Rumor has it that Obama didn't properly footnote and quote-credit his kindergarten essay too.

    He should drop out of the race.

    February 18, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  22. Eric

    It's funny to read all the comments. If Obama doesn't fight back, then he is not strong enough to be the next president, if he does, then he's not man enough to take it.

    This talk of "borrowed rhetoric" just shows the desperation of the Hillary campaign in an effort to distract Obama. Instead of sticking to issues, she has to get nasty and personal.

    I am glad that Obama struck back. This is not about acting like children, this is about what is right.

    February 18, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  23. Anna

    Why are we focusing on this childish game being created by the Clinton campaign?

    I wish CNN would cover the comments made by a Clinton head in Michigan that said superdelegates are more important than red state delegates and that red state delegates don't matter. 100% offensive, and as a red-state democrat i'm glad i had enough sense to vote Obama on super tuesday.

    like someone said on politico.com "READY TO SURRENDER RED STATES ON DAY 1"

    February 18, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  24. RTM

    "Don't tell me words don't matter! 'I have a dream.' Just words. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' Just words. 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself.' Just words, just speeches!"

    This is the actual quote from Obama. Plagarisim? The last time I looked these words belonged to all of us.

    Hillary needs to stop playing this tedious game of twisting words out of context. It's shallow and dishonorable. However, this is a woman who, when asked why she doesn't also pull her name from the Michigan primaries, said that it won't matter. I suppose this is the respect she will continue to show for words if she's in the Whitehouse. Words don't matter because I guess words aren't your word.

    As someone on the Clinton campaign famously said, "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the–if he–if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not–that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement....

    People, open your eyes to at least four years distortion and unkept words if the Clintons make it back into power.

    February 18, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  25. Angela

    CNN Pleas print this.
    this is just a pattern barak obama has been stealing policy ideas from hillary clinton from the beginning, slightly changing then and portraying them as his own. Examples: her economic plan – green collar jobs, national infrastructure bank, rescinding tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs overseas (see whoopi goldberg on the view – you tube), her plan for the gulf states – and yes I have read both websites, his is full of vague promises, hers are clear plans. Obama doesn't have a clue, he wants to fund education by pulling put of iraq – iraq funding is supplemental funding : this means it is additional money that will not be available if there are no troops in iraq, congress will not authorize a supplemental bill for education. Also obama wanted to change no child left behind now he wants to get rid of it – another of hrc ideas

    February 18, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
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