The Slatest

Paul Manafort Blames Hillary for Melania’s Plagiarism

Donald Trump gestures to his wife Melania after she delivered a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In previewing Melania Trump’s GOP convention speech yesterday afternoon, I predicted that few if anyone would be talking about it the morning after. Boy, was I wrong!

Here’s the game tape, which presents a rather damning case that Melania or someone on her team of speechwriters is guilty of plagiarizing parts of Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech:

So how did Team Trump react this morning? “These are common words and values—that she cares about her family, things like that,” campaign manager Paul Manafort told CNN on Tuesday. “She was speaking in front of 35 million people last night; she knew that. To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy.”

Yes, Paul Manafort, it is!

Manafort, who also dismissed the accusations as “absurd,” then went on to somehow blame the controversy on none other than the woman Trump will face in the general election. “This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how [Clinton] seeks to demean her and take her down,” he said. (That’s why he makes the big bucks.) [Update, 11:25 a.m.: It seems worth noting that Hillary has not tweeted or commented publicly on Melania’s speech or the apparent plagiarism.]

Trump’s saddest surrogate, Chris Christie, attempted his own damage control. During an appearance on NBC’s Today show, he shrugged off the controversy by suggesting that there’s no case for plagiarism since, in his words, “93 percent of the speech is completely different.” He added: “I know Melania, I think she worked very hard on that speech. A lot of what I heard last night sitting on the floor sounded very much like her and the way she speaks about Donald all the time.”

Then there was Ben Carson’s rather unique take:

In the grand scheme of things, will any of this matter? Let’s just say it’s hardly at the top of the list of the things Trump and his campaign have said and done this year that should disqualify him from being president. Still, it isn’t exactly going to help put him in the White House. The national convention is a candidate’s time to shine, and a speech by the candidate’s wife is the closest thing to a freebie there is during the long election.

Before reporters discovered the overlap with Michelle Obama’s remarks, many talking heads were gushing over Melania’s rather bland speech and using it as a way to further normalize a presidential candidate who is anything but normal. But now, when many voters are paying more attention to politics than they have all year, they’re tuning in to see not only a scandal, but one that the Trump campaign believes it can deny despite the very clear visual evidence to the contrary.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.