Donald Trump’s campaign chief says the idea that Melania Trump lifted parts of her primetime speech to the Republican National Convention from Michelle Obama’s 2008 address to the Democratic convention is “crazy.”
“There is no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech. These were common words and values,” Paul Manafort said in an interview with CNN early Tuesday. “To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy. This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks out to demean her and take her down. It’s not going to work.”
In her headline speech Monday, in Cleveland, Melania Trump spoke about the values that her parents instilled in her.
“From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life,” she said, “that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect.”
The address, which the would-be first lady delivered after a brief introduction by her husband, was well received by the GOP delegation.
But viewers noticed striking similarities between Melania Trump’s speech and the one Michelle Obama delivered to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
— Javier Panzar (@jpanzar) July 19, 2016
In a statement, Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller did not address the plagiarism allegations, instead appearing to blame to campaign aides who helped draft the speech.
“In writing her beautiful speech, Melania’s team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking,” Miller said. “Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success.”
But in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer earlier Monday, Melania Trump said she prepared the speech almost entirely herself.
“I read once over it and that’s all, because I wrote it,” she said, “with as little help as possible.”
Manafort also flatly denied any plagiarism took place.
“Certainly there is no feeling on her part that she did it,” he said. “What she did is use words that are common words. To expect her, to think that she would do something like that, knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be last night, is just really absurd.”
On NBC’s “Today” show, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie admitted some of Melania’s remarks matched Michelle’s.
“Ninety-three percent of the speech is completely different from Michelle Obama’s speech,” Christie said. “They expressed some common thoughts.”
At a breakfast hosted by Bloomberg Politics, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said he would “probably” fire his speechwriters if they did the same.
But Priebus also dismissed the plagiarism controversy as a minor “distraction” that won’t overshadow the rest of the convention.
“Frankly if I knew somebody did it, I would fire them too,” Manafort told the Associated Press.
“These are themes that are personal to her but they are personal to a lot of people,” he said in a press briefing Tuesday morning. “Obviously Michelle Obama feels similar sentiments towards her family. The fact that the speech is being focused on [for] 50 words — and that includes ‘ands’ and ‘thes’ and things like that — is totally ignoring the facts of the speech itself.””
“There’s a political tint to this whole issue,” Manafort added. “The Clinton camp was the first to get it out there.”
On CNN, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Manafort should resign if he reviewed Melania’s speech before she delivered it.
“I agree with Reince Priebus, whoever wrote the speech should be made accountable and fired,” Lewandowski, who was hired by CNN in June after the Trump campaign fired him and installed Manafort in his place.
“When I was the campaign manager, the buck stopped with me, and I’m sitting here with CNN now,” Lewandowski said. “I think if it was Paul Manafort, he’d do the right thing and resign. If he was the last person who saw this, and saw this happen, and has brought this on the candidate’s wife, I think he’d resign because that’s the type of person he would be.”