As the road to Election Day heats up in the United States amid back-to-back weeks of major party conventions, pundits have praised Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s acceptance speech as an example of the poise and grace Americans are seeking in a time of deep crisis.
However, some conservative critics are accusing the former vice president of borrowing some of his lines from a deceased Canadian politician, raising the possibility that the Democratic candidate is engaging in plagiarism.
During his speech, Biden made the case that the United States is facing a truly unprecedented “perfect storm” of four acute crises: the worst pandemic in a century, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, a crisis of racism unseen since the Civil Rights era, and a major climate crisis.
Accusing President Trump of failure, Biden concluded his speech by stirringly contrasting himself with the incumbent, saying: “For love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark. This is our moment. This is our mission.”
The speech by Biden – a famously gaffe-prone septuagenarian politician who is regularly blasted by opponents as meandering and verging on senile – was quickly hailed by political observers from both parties who broadly agreed that Biden’s inspirational oratory exceeded the stereotype of a doddering “Sleepy Joe” that Trump had been setting up.
However, Canadian media were quick to notice that Biden’s words bore an uncanny resemblance to those of Jack Layton, the leader of Canada’s progressive New Democratic Party, who penned a memorable open letter to Canadian citizens while he was on his death bed in 2011.
The letter concluded: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
Canadian netizens were quick to point out the similarity between the two speeches.
this is basically a Jack Layton quote https://t.co/k3FbbuWWfd
— Jenn has maskne (@JennJefferys) August 21, 2020
Jack Layton did it better https://t.co/N4wJhqZsOF
— nashwa lina (@nashwalina) August 21, 2020
So did he credit Jack Layton or no? https://t.co/8skVhQnjsH
— daanis gwaanden (@gindaanis) August 21, 2020
“A number of Canadians are struck by the similar parting words of Biden’s speech to the final words of Jack Layton’s farewell letter before his death,” CBC Washington correspondent Alexander Panetta tweeted.
Others, however, found it touching that the Canadian political leader’s words were finding an echo in the political discourse of the U.S.
“My fellow Canadians, be glad that Biden is emulating/quoting Jack Layton,” tweeted one user. “Be proud of that. Get your heads out of your ***** and support our neighbours to the south in getting Trump the f**k out of office. FFS.”
While another user wrote that Biden “used some similar language, yes. Probably unintentionally.”
Indeed, Layton’s poignant platitude about love triumphing over hate is hardly novel, and the message was also similar to that used by former Canadian Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, as the National Post pointed out.
“Let me tell you that for the solution of these problems you have a safe guide, an unfailing light if you remember that faith is better than doubt and love is better than hate,” Laurier said in 1916.
But while many Canadians were willing to forgive Biden for intentionally or unintentionally echoing Layton’s final message, Republican pundits were quick to accuse Biden of outright plagiarism.
“That’s sloppy, Joe,” wrote the right-leaning New York Post, which accused the Democrat of “[reprising] his penchant for borrowing lines from other people’s work.”
While Biz Pac Review paraphrased the former veep himself said that “Accusations have surfaced that Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden is a ‘lying, dog-faced’ plagiarist.”
Indeed, if the accusations are true, it wouldn’t be the first time in his political career that Biden has been found lifting lines from other politicians.
Biden’s first campaign for presidency in 1987 ended in disgrace after the then 44-year-old senator was found to have blatantly plagiarized phrases and ideas from UK Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. Biden even went so far as to borrow elements of Kinnock’s recounting of his family history.
Upon being exposed, Biden withdrew from the race. He later claimed that the scandal was “much ado about nothing” and that he had simply forgotten to credit the British politician.