Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan is in damage-control mode after a U.S. think tank alleged that she had plagiarized the Twitter feed of another famous first lady: Michelle Obama.
Erdogan, who has tried to position herself as a worldly and glamorous leader, may have gone a step too far in her emulation of Obama. Until just recently, her official biography on Twitter read: "This account is run by Organizing for Action staff. Tweets from the First Lady are signed –mo."
This is the exact biography attached to Obama’s official Twitter account—and the similarities have caused a public relations problem in Ankara, where the ridicule of Erdogan has prompted a government backlash meant to minimize the embarrassment.
The resemblance between Erdogan and Obama’s Twitter profile was first highlighted late last week by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in a blog post that led Turkish officials to deny all knowledge of the account and claim it is a fake.
"When Recep Tayyip Erdogan assumed the presidency last month, his wife Emine became first lady," wrote AEI scholar and former Pentagon adviser Michael Rubin. "It seems Emine models herself after Michelle Obama, right down to her Twitter account."
It does not appear that Erdogan has ever publicly referred to herself as ‘mo’ (except on Twitter) and there is no Turkish entity known as "Organizing for Action," the same name that Team Obama gave to the president’s nonprofit group.
Rubin went on to mock Erdogan’s "shameless plagiarism" and criticize her husband, Recep Tayyip, for his recent attempts to crackdown on opposition press and other government opponents.
"Maybe it’s not shameless plagiarism in Turkey’s presidential palace," Rubin wrote.
"Maybe Emine Erdogan really does use the initials ‘mo.’ And as for suggesting any impropriety that might undercut Emine’s vestal image, I’m sure we’re only a Turkish press conference away from blaming this scandal on Jews, the interest rate lobby, yours truly, that well-known personification of subversion Steven Cook, or the Gülenists."
Once the embarrassing revelation circulated in foreign policy circles, Erdogan’s Twitter account was mysteriously altered. It currently reads: "Emine Erdogan Resmi Twitter Hesabı The Official Twitter Account."
However, Turkish officials now deny that the account even belongs to Erdogan.
"Emine Erdogan has no official social media account," Erdogan’s Chief Press Adviser Lütfullah Goktaş was quoted as saying in the Turkish press a day after Rubin’s post.
Turkish officials blamed the controversy on anti-government forces and maintain that the Twitter account is not operated by official sources.
A Turkish embassy spokesperson declined to address the controversy when approached by the Washington Free Beacon.
Rubin accused Turkish officials of lying about the account in a frantic bid for damage control.
"The account has been active since August," Rubin said. "Turkey has taken the power to knock sites offline without court orders in a matter of minutes. The Turkish explanation beggars belief."
"The fact that Emine Erdogan's account continues—this time with its plagiarized description fixed—suggests that Emine's handlers screwed up but were too proud to admit it," Rubin said. "The whole incident is a metaphor for what Turkey has become: dishonest, dishonorable, but too proud to admit its fundamental corruption."
This is not the first time that the Erdogans have been called out for copying the Obamas.
When Erdogan was nominated in July to run for the Turkish presidency, he unveiled a campaign logo that appeared strikingly similar to the Obama campaign’s famous design.
President Erdogan has come under intense fire in recent months for attempts to crack down on the free press.
"Turkey has used its power to shut down Twitter accounts and newspapers it does not like," Rubin said. "This is especially true with accounts, which, in Turkish, attest to their official status."
Erdogan additionally has faced criticism from Congress for employing anti-Semitic rhetoric and fostering hatred of Israel and Jewish people.