July 19, 2016 2:41 pm
Updated: July 20, 2016 11:44 am

Chances that Melania Trump didn’t plagiarize Michelle Obama 1 in 87 billion: expert

Centennial professor explains how TurnItIn.com, used by teachers to check if students have plagiarized, can detect if Melania Trump plagiarized her Republican convention speech.

A A

The odds that Melania Trump spoke a series of phrases in the exact same order as Michelle Obama did nearly eight years earlier completely by accident are 1 in 87 billion, a Canadian physicist has calculated.

Or about 7,000 times less likely than winning the Lotto 6/49 jackpot and about 9,000 times less likely than being struck by lightning — twice, in your lifetime.

According to McGill University professor Robert Rutledge, the wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has either beaten the odds to an almost impossible degree, or someone (perhaps not Melania Trump herself) plagiarized the now-first lady’s speech from the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

Rutledge said he was watching news reports following Trump’s speech in Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday night, and noted that several Republicans had been defending her with the argument that there are only so many words in the English language, and she was bound to use some of the same ones as Michelle Obama.

Story continues below

READ MORE: Melania Trump in social media firestorm after accusations she plagiarized Michelle Obama speech

One Trump spokesperson, Katrina Pierson, told The Washington Post that, “This concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd” and dismissed the allegation that the speech was stolen.

“I thought, ‘that’s sort of silly,'” Rutledge told Global News on Tuesday. “I’m a physicist, so when things come up that you can mathematically model, that’s sort of the thing we do.”

So he decided to run the math, starting by isolating 14 distinct phrases (of two words or more) that the two women both spoke.

These included “word is your bond,” “do what you say,” “treat people with…respect,” “because we want our children” and “willingness to work for them,” to name just a few.

WATCH: Melania Trump spoke at the Republican National Convention on Monday night. She had delegates gushing but her speech drew some criticism as well for closely resembling Michelle Obama’s 2008 address. As Emily Mertz reports, Trump’s campaign manager denies the speech was plagiarized.

Rutledge ignored the fact that the exact same words were being used by both speakers, and just looked at the order in which the phrases were spoken.

“You can order these in any way you want to,” he explained. “What is the probability that the ordering of the phrases exactly matches those of Obama … which would have to be what occurred if she didn’t plagiarize.”

The answer was 1 in 87 billion. (You can read the finer points of the math here.)

WATCH: Newt Gingrich calls Melania Trump plagiarism controversy ‘bologna’

 

In a tweet, the physicist called the situation “sad.”

Rutledge said he used a similar mathematical model to try to explain an oddity during an election in South Carolina in 2010. In that situation, Alvin Greene, a near unknown candidate who had done almost no campaigning, handily won the state’s Democratic Senate primary over a well-established candidate.

“People were saying that it’s because African American voters identified his name (Greene) as being African American, and they voted overwhelmingly for him. So I did a calculation like that and showed that the probability of that occurring was about one in ten trillion.”

Rutledge said he still quite doesn’t understand what happened.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error

Comments

Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.