By Klara Skrinjar
Donald Trump’s Slovenian-born wife Melania was accused of plagiarism in her Republican Party convention speech – and records suggest her claim to have a university degree could also be false.
Accusations that Republican presidential candidate’s wife Melania Trump plagiarized her speech from one that Michelle Obama gave at the 2008 Democratic Party convention have raised new questions about the credibility of the Trump campaign.
The furor also opened up further questions about whether Melania Trump’s official account of her early life and education in her homeland Slovenia is completely genuine.
A search of the public records in Slovenia and an interview with her biographer raise suspicions that her claim to have a university degree could be false.
Melania Trump’s official biography says she graduated in architecture and design from a university in Slovenia.
The University of Ljubljana would not supply any information about whether Melanija Knavs – as she was known in Slovenia – had earned a degree or not because of the country’s personal data protection law.
But the Slovenian virtual library Cobiss – which holds all public records including final academic works – offers no results for Melanija Knavs.
What also raises eyebrows is the fact that she claims to have a degree in architecture and design, when in Slovenia there is no faculty of architecture and design.
Students can study architecture at the Faculty of Architecture or design at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design or at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering. But not both simultaneously.
Igor Omerza, one of two authors of the book Melania Trump – The Inside Story: From a Slovenian Communist Village to the White House, insists that she didn’t finish university.
“After secondary school, she enrolled in university, attended the first year of architecture but never ended it,” Omerza told BIRN.
“Well, you know, she was a beautiful girl and other students remember her attending the first year but she had never completed the whole studies. She simply disappeared from the faculty and began her career in fashion business,” he said.
This appears to be confirmed by newspaper articles from the 1990s.
One of them, entitled “Visiting Melanija Knavs in Paris”, was published in 1998 in Slovenian newspaper Slovenske novice.
The article is about a group of journalists who go to Paris to participate in the shooting of an advertisement for a Slovenian product with Melanija Knavs, who at the time was a 28-year-old model.
Knavs had a short conversation with the journalists and told them a bit about her modelling career and her education.
The Slovenske novice journalist reported: “She finished industrial design in Ljubljana at a secondary school for design. Then she enrolled at the Faculty of Architecture but she didn’t get a degree since there were more tempting things to do: work in the fashion world.”
She was also quoted in another newspaper article in 1998, entitled “Slovenian Language is Like a Song” and published in Nedeljske novice.
“I was born in Sevnica and then completed secondary school for design in Ljubljana and enrolled at the Faculty of Architecture. I didn’t finish the faculty because I was more interested in working as a model,” she told the Nedeljske novice journalist.
Omerza further accuses Melania Trump of embellishing the truth about her family background. He said that she has claimed that her mother was a fashion designer and her father a manager.
“In fact, her mother was a seamstress and her father a mechanic and a professional driver, who after 1990 set up his own company, but was never a manager,” Omerza alleged.
“Knowing the fact that Trump addresses himself to the working class, I do not understand why they hide the truth when it could be used as an advantage,” he added.
Meanwhile the plagiarism claims sparked by her speech at the Republican Party convention this week have been met with humour back in Slovenia.
In a reference to revelations in recent years that some members of the country’s political elite have been prone to plagiarism in their speeches as well as their university theses, some people joked that at least Melania Trump is being “faithful to her Slovenian origins”.
*Klara Skrinjar is a journalist at Slovenian newspaper Delo.