Reaction to Melania Trump speech: No evidence to back up her words

Nichola Gutgold | Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State Lehigh Valley


By all accounts, when Melania Trump finished her much anticipated, well delivered 2016 RNC speech last night, it was considered a great success. Now, the media is focusing on whether or not the speech was a failure because of alleged plagiarizing of Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech.

I believe that the speech is a failure because Melania Trump did not give a full picture of her husband. Donald Trump has no elected experience, has been twice divorced and continually makes inflammatory remarks. Melania’s speech was a moment for the person who likely knows him most intimately — his wife of 18 years — to say that he is thoughtful, tender, kind and honest and to back up the assertions with evidence.

Nichola Gutgold

Nichola Gutgold

She did not do this to the extent that she needed to in order to change his image from boor to a person fit to be president. She said his “kindness is there for all to see” and that it was “one of the reasons I fell in love with him in the first place.” But there were no examples.

In contrast, when Elizabeth Dole spoke in 1996 about Bob Dole, the Republican nominee, who was described by Time Magazine as “the nation’s mortician,” she offered evidence, such as the formation of The Bob Dole Foundation to help people with disabilities.

All the attention is on whether or not Melanie Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speech, which is probably the fault of a sloppy speechwriter. But the true failure of Melania Trump’s speech is that she needed an illustrative story or two to prove Donald Trump’s “goodness of heart” beyond having well-educated, impressive children of his own.

Penn State experts available for interviews at conventions

Two Penn State political science experts will be attending the political conventions this month and will be available for comment and analysis of the events.

Political protests

Lee Ann Banaszak, Penn State professor and political science department head, will be attending both the Democratic and Republican conventions to study political protesters. She will accompany students who will be surveying protesters as part of her research.

She will be available to speak about political protests, the current political environment and women in politics.

To schedule an interview with Banaszak, contact Heather Robbins with Penn State News and Media Relations at or 814-865-7517.

Women in politics

Nichola Gutgold, professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State and the author of “Madam President: Five Women Who Paved the Way,” will be attending the Democratic convention. She will accompany students to the 2016 Democratic National Convention as part of an academic seminar with The Washington Center.

She will be available to speak about women in politics as well as analyze the events at the convention.

To schedule an interview with Gutgold, contact her at or contact Heather Robbins with Penn State News and Media Relations at or 814-865-7517.

The many moves to make with the ‘woman card’

Hillary Clinton speaks at a January 2016 campaign stop at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Photo Credit: Matt A.J./Flickr

Hillary Clinton speaks at a January 2016 campaign stop at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Photo Credit: Matt A.J./Flickr

Nichola D. Gutgold | Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences and Schreyer Honors College Associate Dean for Academics


As the contentious primary contests draw to a close, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the likely Democratic and Republican nominees for president, and, as such, they have begun to shift to a general election rhetoric. Trump has accentuated the gender of Clinton, asserting that it is an unfair advantage for her to play the “woman card.”

Nichola Gutgold

Nichola Gutgold

Women have figured prominently in the 2016 campaign, and as President Barack Obama optimistically noted in his commencement speech at Howard University, “… to deny how far we’ve come would do a disservice to the cause of justice.”

A review of the many ways to play the “woman card” — if that’s what you want to call it — reveals that no longer are women relegated to “staying home and baking cookies” (though, that is a nice option, if one chooses). The women who are part of this election are proof that unlike the small sphere of influence not that long ago relegated to women in the political world, the role of women has expanded and the real possibility that we may elect a woman president is only one part of that expansion.

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly has sparred publicly with Donald Trump after challenging his characterizations of women as “fat pigs, slobs — and disgusting animals” in the first presidential debate. Barbara Bush, former first lady and mother of former presidential candidate Jeb Bush, publicly wondered how women could vote for Trump and encouraged her son to interrupt more.

Melania Trump, business woman, former model and wife of Donald Trump, has encouraged her husband to act more “presidential” while his daughter, Ivanka Trump, business woman and former model who just gave birth to her third child, is one of the more articulate spokespeople for her father’s campaign — especially when juxtaposed with Sarah Palin, former governor and vice presidential candidate who commented that Paul Ryan may well be “cantored ” — referring to the ousting of former Rep. Eric Cantor in a 2015 Virginia primary — for not supporting Donald Trump.

The Hillary Clinton campaign started issuing actual "woman cards" after Donald Trump said Clinton owed her success to playing the "woman card." Image credit:

The Hillary Clinton campaign started issuing actual “woman cards” after Donald Trump said Clinton owed her success to playing the “woman card.”
Image credit: screenshot from

Chelsea Clinton is a surrogate on the campaign trail for her mother while feminist icon Gloria Steinem and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have had their moments in the spotlight during this campaign. North Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley endorsed Marco Rubio’s failed presidential effort and is considered as someone to watch on the national Republican stage, and actress America Ferrera publicly insists that “I am a female, millennial voter … and I’m not only voting for Hillary, but I really like Hillary.”

And, of course, there is Hillary Clinton herself — the front runner in the Democratic party and the Rorschach test of what it means to be a woman in America. She is a former “Goldwater Girl,” first lady, senator, secretary of state, mother and grandmother.

So what do the voters who are women really think about a woman president? Most of course love the idea, but they are not voting for Hillary because she is a woman. They are, however, donating to her campaign. The New York Times noted that close to half of Clinton’s “bundlers” — the volunteer fundraisers who solicit checks from friends and business associates — are women, compared with about a third of President Obama’s 2012 bundlers.

As Gail Collins noted in her five decades-long review of the women’s movement, “When Everything Changed,” no woman would want to turn back the clock to the “Mad Men” or “Apollo 13” days when a woman needed to be thin, perfectly made up with floors that gleamed to be worth anything.

So, yes, the woman card is playing out in lots of different ways. It is definitely not your mother’s woman card and positive proof of progress.

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