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No, Fox News, Biden Didn't Plagiarize Michael Avenatti

Fox News and other conservative echo chambers are breathlessly reporting that Biden stole "Let's Make America America Again" from Avenatti. The truth is quite different.

Fox News "reports":

Former Vice President Joe Biden was applauded Tuesday by Democrats in Iowa when he slammed President Trump with his own twist on the president’s famous campaign slogan.

“He says, ‘let's make America great again,’” Biden said of Trump in Ottumwa. “Let's make America America again.”

Turns out, that’s not the first time voters have heard that line: Michael Avenatti, the anti-Trump lawyer who briefly promoted a possible Democratic presidential run of his own this year before being indicted on multiple charges, repeatedly used that same slogan in public remarks as he pushed back against Trump.

Avenatti on Tuesday tweeted, "Since I won't be using it, I’m happy @JoeBiden is using 'Let’s Make America America Again.' Because it's a damn good slogan and message."

Avenatti most recently used the line – in endorsing Biden for president in April.

So Fox is tying Avenatti around Biden's neck and accusing Biden of ripping Avenatti off. The Daily Caller and the Daily Wire have similar takes.

But this isn't Avenatti's phrase, and it's hardly the first time it's shown up in a presidential campaign.

In 2004, John Kerry, for a time, used "Let America be America again" as his slogan. He acknowledged that he'd borrowed the line from a poem written by the African-American poet Langston Hughes and published in 1935. Kerry even wrote an introduction to a collection of Hughes's verse.

Kerry was criticized for this by William F. Buckley, who, as The Boston Globe put it, "argued that because Hughes was a communist, his poem's vision of a redeemed America was 'not an America that history had known and chronicled [but] the land of Marx and Lenin and Stalin.'"

In 2011, Rick Santorum briefly adopted the slogan "Fighting to Make America America Again," but dropped it when the Hughes connection was pointed out to him. (Salon reported this in an article titled "Rick Santorum Disowns Campaign Slogan When Told a Gay Liberal Poet Came Up with It.")

Later in 2011, Mitt Romney was criticized by many observers (including me) for apparently using the phrase "keep America American," a phrase linked to the Ku Klux Klan. A closer look at a video of Romney's remarks revealed that he'd actually said "keep America America" -- subtly different, but similar to what Hughes had written.

And at the Republican convention in 2016, Scott Baio concluding his speech praising Donald Trump with the words "So of course let's make America great again, but let's make America America again."

I guess Baio was plagiarizing a gay black communist -- or Rick Santorum, I forget which.

Published with permission of No More Mr. Nice Blog

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