“The fact that the speech itself is being focused on for … 50 words, and that includes ‘and’s’ and ‘the’s’ and things like that, is totally ignoring the facts of the speech itself,” said campaign chairman Paul Manafort at a morning news conference, accusing the media of “distorting” the would-be first lady’s remarks. “It’s just another example, as far as we’re concerned, that when Hillary Clinton is threatened by a female, the first thing she does is try to destroy the person.”
A top Clinton campaign aide responded on Twitter to Manafort’s accusation that the Democratic presumptive nominee was the first to bring up the identical language. “Nice try. Not true,” wrote Jennifer Palmieri.
Melania Trump’s 14-minute speech Monday night was initially well received, but was quickly criticized over two paragraphs lifted almost verbatim from first lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic nominating convention eight years ago.
For example, in 2008, Michelle Obama said, “We want our children – and all children in this nation – to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”
Monday night, Melania Trump said, “We want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”
A Slovenian immigrant and Donald Trump’s third wife, Melania Trump has done few public events with her husband in his year on the trail. Manafort and other campaign supporters closed ranks overnight and early Tuesday, arguing that the criticism was overblowing the similarities between the two speeches.
In a statement issued by the campaign overnight, newly hired spokesman Jason Miller said: “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.”
Trump supporter and vice-presidential finalist New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told NBC’s “Today” show that “93 percent of the speech is completely different from Michelle Obama’s speech.”
Not all Republicans, though are falling in line to defend the campaign. Some privately grumble that the incident is only the latest example of an undisciplined and amateurishly run campaign unready for an undertaking as massive as a presidential general election.
Even Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Tuesday that he would “probably” fire the responsible staffer were it up to him, but added that he doesn’t attribute the mistake to Melania Trump. “I don’t blame her. ... Some of these things are pretty common types of themes,” he said at a breakfast hosted by Bloomberg Politics.
The episode illustrates the continuing friction between the Trump campaign and the RNC, which Trump is relying on heavily to provide basic campaign functions such as fundraising and field staff.
Melania Trump’s speech, nevertheless, was not vetted by the RNC, according to one official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the party’s presumptive nominee. The official added that it was not likely that anyone in the Trump campaign vetted it closely, either, given how few staffers it has.
The campaign is also still not communicating fully with the RNC staff. Last week, when it became public that that Trump had filed a $10 million suit against a former staffer over a leak to a New York tabloid, the RNC learned about it the same way as the public: through media accounts. The campaign had not told the RNC about the suit, according to a second party official.
The developer-turned-reality TV star will be formally nominated as the Republican presidential candidate for president Tuesday evening, and will deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday night.