An Astrophysicist Used Math To Show Melania Trump Stole Her Speech

There's a 1 in 87 billion chance Melania didn't rip off Michelle, a McGill scientist says.
Melania Trump, left, channeled Michelle Obama, right, during her address to the Republican National Convention on Monday
Melania Trump, left, channeled Michelle Obama, right, during her address to the Republican National Convention on Monday.

Since Melania Trump got caught red-handed at the Republican National Convention Monday night appropriating passages from a speech Michelle Obama delivered in 2008, Donald Trump’s team has engaged in a breathtaking effort to gaslight America.

Paul Manafort and others from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s campaign have even attempted to argue that it’s simply a coincidence, and that both women used “common” words. 

McGill University astrophysicist Robert Rutledge is having none of it.

In a series of posts to Twitter and Facebook, Rutledge ran the numbers, breaking down the disputed passages into distinct phrases of a few words each ― “word is your bond,” “because we want our children,” “willingness to work for them” and so on. Based on this analysis, he determined there’s something like a 1 in 87 billion chance that Melania Trump and Michelle Obama would use such similar language. 

On Facebook, Rutledge puts it like this:

So let’s just give that all those words are from a limited number that Melania Trump could have used, and just give the fact that the thematic thrust is the same as Michelle Obama’s passage.

And let’s just ask the simple, calculable question: What is the probability that, giving Melania Trump the same distinct phrases as used by Michelle Obama, they are used in exactly the same order? [...]

According to this calculation, there are a grand total of about 87 billion different permutations for those 14 distinct phrases. That’s 87,000,000,000 ― or about the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.

So never mind Manafort’s claim that there are a limited number of words in the English language. For Melania Trump to have gotten all 14 of those phrases, in the same order as Michelle Obama did at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, is a chance of 1 in 87 billion ― about 7000 times less likely than winning lotto 6/49.

Highly unlikely.


Rutledge, 48, told The Huffington Post that the numbers would change under different assumptions about, for example, the number of distinct phrases. But the clear conclusion would still be that, mathematically, it’s extremely unlikely Trump just happened to use the same language as Obama.

Rutledge, who plans to vote for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in November, said it took him just minutes to conceive and execute his analysis. “It’s something that’s taught in high school,” he said in an interview.

Read Rutledge’s whole Facebook post here:

Nick Wing contributed reporting.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.