Former Fla. journalist uncovers Trump’s ‘stolen’ language



LOS ANGELES – Since he lost his TV reporting job last year, Jarrett Hill has been looking for his next opportunity. It presented itself in an unexpected way.

160722_front03Hill was sitting at a corner table Monday night in a Starbucks drinking iced coffee and watching the Republican National Convention on an MSNBC live stream. As Melania Trump spoke, she uttered a phrase that the 31-year-old California native had heard once before – from First Lady Michelle Obama.

“The only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams …, ” Melania Trump said during her address to the Republican National Convention.

Instinctively, Hill finished the phrase aloud to his laptop screen: “… and your willingness to work for them.”

He recalled the words from Michelle Obama’s speech because, he said, he had thought to himself at the time that it was “really beautifully written.”

Confirmed plagiarism
When Hill googled Michelle Obama and parts of her memorable turn of phrase, her 2008 convention speech popped up. An hour later, after he had watched Melania Trump’s full speech again, he realized more than just a few words had been borrowed.

Hill took to Twitter to share his discovery. He apparently was the first person to publicly note the similarities between the speeches. The discovery prompted headlines across media outlets and flooded Hill with interview requests worldwide.

The controversy initially prompted Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign chief, to blame Hillary Clinton and the media for bringing attention to “50 words, and that includes ‘ands’ and ‘thes’ and things like that” that were similar to Michelle Obama’s speech.

On Wednesday, a Trump Organization staff speechwriter named Meredith McIver took the blame.

“Over the phone, she (Melania Trump) read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech.

“I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant,” McIver wrote in a statement distributed by the Trump campaign.

Worked in Tampa Bay
Hill, who is from Fairfield, Calif., moved to Los Angeles in 2011 to work in television. In 2014, he moved to ABC Action News WFTS in the Tampa Bay area to work as a producer and a digital on-camera reporter.

He lost his job in April 2015, less than a week after celebrating his 30th birthday.

“I loved a lot of people I worked with there, but I’m a little salty,” Hill said. “I was really upset to have been laid off the way that I was.

“My gut told me I’d come back to that station on a national story someday. No idea it would be like this.”

Still looking
Hill has been working with his agent to look for his next full-time job and has freelanced for places like Huffington Post and Independent Television News in Britain. He also runs an interior design business on the side.

Now, things are looking up, as he prepared for a CNN interview. He has dozens of other media requests and seemed still in shock over the attention his Twitter feed had garnered.

“I would love to get a great job from this, doing something that I love,” he said, “but I don’t think I’ve even processed all of what’s happening.”

Times staff writer Noah Bierman contributed to this report.



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