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. Ron

    It's ridiculous that all you Clinton supporters act like I'm in some sort of trance. Evidently you haven't seen that Republicans are gearing up and have all sorts of attacks ready for Hillary. There's way too many ways that they can attack Hillary. How can you attack a man thats new, fresh, and inspiring? It's sick that this campaign run by Hillary and Bill has now become the campaign of attacking those that don't agree with us. Did you see Bill yelling at that Obama supporter? Their a democrat for crying out loud. I hope this all comes back to bite you, because this is the least friendly campaign among members of the same party I have ever seen, and its being run by lame Hillary attacks.

    Obama 08, theirs no such thing as an Obamazombie, this man is a change I BELIEVE IN

    February 18, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  2. emmanuel

    Dear citizens of the world and Americans in particular ,
    thank you very much for making clear choices between good and bad , between progressiveness and static nature of some people's thinking ,
    Can the Americans take the leadership and move beyond colour or creed and vote for an energetic , brilliant / intelligent and well focussed Senator Obama? let age , colour and experience in Washington not be yardstick for the next America's president.every one sees that the next American got be A democrat and a strong democrat who will over shadow Mcain!!
    Go Oboma , we support you !!!!!!!!!!!! yes you can

    February 18, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  3. hill, danville

    Clintons are the master of deception. They would do anything to win.
    OBAMA 2008!

    February 18, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. Rob

    Its kinda pathetic that Gov. Patrick says its "OK, we borrow ideas from each other all the time". And most of these posts on her seem to be reveling that "Yaaay!!!, We finally got Obama on something!!!"

    Most of you are pathetic in that you can't find a substantive issue to debunk Obama on so you come on hear to denigrate him as a "child".

    You might as well call him a "boy" and be the true racists you are inside. That 'man-child' has just whipped Billary in 8 straight contests, it'll be 10 tomorrow. He has manhandled her in terms of campaigning in every possible way. And he whips McCain in every poll. Not bad for the "whiny child" you all call him.

    OH, and in case you all forgot, Duval Patrick was a "black candidate" too, busters.

    February 18, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  5. George

    For the Junior Senator is much easier to criticize Senator Clinton because he has only two years of experience in the Senate which is not a long voting record where Senator Clinton has been in public life 30 or so. I don`t understand how some people make these comparisons and based on what criterias beteween the two.

    February 18, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. Michigan500

    The Clintons are so pathetic. This morning MSNBC showed Bill sticking his finger in some guys face and reading him the riot act because he was an Obama supporter. Clinton looked like a fool. I thought Hillary had him under control. Gheez can you imagine what he'll be like back in the White House. Good Grief

    February 18, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. John


    I don't really know what to say, except that you are 100% absolutely unquestionably wrong.

    This story was broken when, and I quote:

    "Howard Wolfson, the Clinton campaign's communications director, today accused Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) of committing “plagiarism” in a speech in Milwaukee on Saturday night.

    Wolfson made the explosive charge in an interview with Politico after suggesting as much in a conference call with reporters.

    On the call, Wolfson said: “Sen. Obama is running on the strength of his rhetoric and the strength of his promises and, as we have seen in the last couple of days, he’s breaking his promises and his rhetoric isn’t his own.”

    "When an author plagiarizes from another author there is damage done to two different parties. One is to the person he plagiarized from. The other is to the reader," said Wolfson."

    This is another one of the Clinton campaign's dirty tricks. We don't want you in office anymore Billary.

    The ship is sinking....

    February 18, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  8. E>Dozois

    finally someone has let the hot air out of obama,there is now enough
    hot air to warm up Siberia.

    February 18, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  9. John W., Milwaukee, WI

    This is what Obama calls: CHANGE?

    Maybe Obama should be stealing the words of Mayor Doug Wilder from SC: "If Obama doesn't get nominated there are going to be riots!"

    Yes, CHANGE!

    Isn't it WONDERFUL?

    February 18, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  10. jane

    The last time I checked, I have been using "fired up" since I was in cheerleading as a third grader. Hillary also hasn't been saying "Yes, we can" (which only reminds me and anyone with a child of Bob the Builder) she has been saying "Yes we will" a different play on words. Obama's lines were a direct lift from someone else's own speech.

    I wish the democrats could just get it together. We don't need another republican in office, look at the state our country is in. It is time for change, and I believe either of the candidates can do it, they just need to stop with all of these petty things.

    February 18, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  11. Felipe


    February 18, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  12. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Let's not let the Clintons' use the White House for Bill's atonement. It didn't work for Giuliani.

    February 18, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  13. jd

    Republicans for Obama

    February 18, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  14. Jim

    Man, ANYTHING to take the focus away from issues and place it on the back and forth B.S. of the horse race that is this Presidential campaign. Please, come on America. Quit letting the mainstream media pull the wool over your eyes and fill the airwaves with garbage.

    CNN, Fox, MSNBC... It just doesn't matter anymore. We need someone to take back the country from the businesses and special interests. None of these candidates give a (darn) about you, your plight, or your ability to get by in life.

    February 18, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  15. nadia

    this Obama's "change" is becoming something very restricting to all of the people of this country. Either you blindly follow him, or you are doomed. Like in communistic country, or under dictatorship.

    And don't you dare to use those words, but when he copies her plans, this is OK? To copy-cat her ideas, plans is much more serious plagiarism then to use a words which everybody uses.

    I saw it on my own eyes on some of the debates, yes, he does copy!

    February 18, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  16. Oregon Voter

    This is why you don’t base your campaign on being a good speaker. If you're main push for the presidency is that you can use words to inspire people, then you better be using your OWN WORDS to do so. By taking excerpts from other speakers and rehashing them as you're own you lose all credibility.

    Obama really should have run on substance, not rhetoric. At least when Hillary takes a phrase from someone else (ie: you don't have to be straight to shoot straight) she tells you who she's quoting before saying it…

    February 18, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  17. school teacher

    This is crazy "Fired up ready to go" has been around for ages..By the way if you have a good inspirational speech you migh send it to Obama. He is good at delivering what someone else has written. That is what Opra's speech writers have done. So if you have a good one I bet he is interested in reading it.

    February 18, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  18. Tim, Powder Spring, GA

    I guess Hilary's camp must be out of issues to talk about because they are certainly spending more time talking about Obama than what she can do to fix the country!!!

    February 18, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  19. Jules

    The talk of plagiarism is sad, especially because most arguments are being made as if the candidates- and I mean both of them- are products. I am not naive, and I know a effective slogan can work wonders in such a commercial society, but the bottom line is that this story is not a worthy news story and the candidates are behaving poorly and childishly. I fear we are handing McCain his victory. Senator Obama's borrowing an approach from Gov. Patrick is not anything to be upset about. It fit perfectly with his position and his situation and he had discussed it with Gov. Patrick. On the other hand, Senator Obama can't patent the words "change" and "hope" and expect no one else to use them. Let's get back to the issues please. This is an insult to supporters of both campaigns.

    February 18, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  20. Scott

    I hope the news media covers this story . So much has been made about Obama's speeches. I am told "His speeches are so inspirational." Now we find out he is a fraud- He uses other people's speeches.

    February 18, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  21. Felipe


    February 18, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |

    It amazes me that have not heard much about the issues of the candidates. Obama just keeps on about history in the making. Then he keeps on with his rhetoric of negatives of other candidates.Yes he may be an good orator but that does not make him a good candidate for president. I want to hear more about the issues not negatives and the same old song and dance. As of right now I cannot see myself voting for either democratic candidate. If they are plagirizing that tells me that they do not have any new ideas just borrrowed. People need to take a good look at the candidates and listen. Watch out for hidden skeletons in both candidates.

    February 18, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  23. George

    Like Senator Clinton said at her last debate with the Junior Senator it took a Clinton to clean after the first Bush and it will take a Clinton to clean after the second one.

    February 18, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  24. Frank

    That's a joke ... is there a patent on words ? He shared a thought with a supporter of his – So what ? What's Billary's point ?

    When Billary copied Obama's signature lines I thought that would be kind of lame, because they are in direct competition with each other. But since it's Billary , it is 'ok', right ?

    See, the way Billary runs her hate & distortion campaign she may succeed with the simple minded voter – but the Democrats have to keep in mind that the actual presidential election is in November!

    Billary turned me so off that I will rather vote for a Republican candidate in 2008 and a Republican Congress (in 2008 and 2010) before I would vote Mr. Bill Hate and Mrs. Hi-LIAR-ry Smear.

    Frank & Family in Missouri

    February 18, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  25. ntc

    "If you’re going to be talking about the value of words, the words ought to be your own".

    Please – let's get real here. What president or presidential candidate drafts his or her own speeches? NONE of them... certainly not our current idiot in chief... So what, exactly is the big deal here? Some speechwriter should have been more careful stealing ideas from some other speechwriter... So what???

    February 18, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
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