Melania Trump Echoes Michelle Obama In Convention Speech

Jul 19, 2016
Originally published on July 19, 2016 6:18 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Well, now for how the Trump campaign is responding to the speech controversy, I'm joined by NPR's Sarah McCammon. And Sarah, what do they have to say?

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Well, Robert, the response seemed to be - seems to be that this is not plagiarism, first of all, and that the speech includes themes close to a lot of people's hearts about family and the hard work and that it reflected Melania Trump's sincere thinking, as campaign chairman Paul Manafort told reporters this morning. You know, he's been calling allegations of plagiarism absurd and says this is just about politics.

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PAUL MANAFORT: Certainly we've noted that the Clinton camp was the first to get it out there. They tried to say that there was something untoward about the speech that's - that Melania Trump gave. 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.

MCCAMMON: Now, to be clear, the similarities between the speeches were not first spotted by the Clinton campaign. In fact they spread quickly on social media and were reported widely by the news media. A spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton's campaign tweeted to Paul Manafort, quote, "blaming Hillary Clinton isn't the answer for every Trump campaign problem."

SIEGEL: And what about convention organizers? Are Republican Party leaders on the same page as the campaign?

MCCAMMON: Not completely. At a breakfast this morning hosted by Bloomberg Politics, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was asked this question.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If you found that a speechwriter had done that, would you fire that speechwriter?

REINCE PRIEBUS: Probably.

MCCAMMON: So he said probably he would fire his speechwriter, but Priebus also said Melania did a great job and had a successful night. Meanwhile Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN that Manafort should resign if he was the last person to sign off on the speech. Manafort, we should note, was Lewandowski's rival before Lewandowski was fired from the campaign.

And then there was a comment by RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer who said on CNN that a phrase about dreaming big from Melania's speech sounded like a quote attributed to a "My Little Pony" cartoon character, trying to make the point that these are just common themes that people talk about. But overall the campaign and the RNC aren't backing off this defense.

SIEGEL: And what about Melania Trump herself? Has she had anything to say about this?

MCCAMMON: She hasn't commented publicly since last night, though her Twitter account did post a statement issued by the campaign which said that, quote, "a team of writers took notes on her life's inspirations and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking." That's a little bit different from what she told NBC's Matt Lauer yesterday when he asked her how she was prepping for her big night.

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MELANIA TRUMP: I read once over it, but that's all because I wrote it and - with a little help as possible.

MCCAMMON: We should point out that Melania Trump has largely preferred to stay out of the spotlight. You know, she does appear alongside her husband sometimes. But she said her focus is on raising their son Barron. This was her most high-profile moment ever and certainly in this campaign. And certainly, you know, the reaction is probably not going to be something that encourages her to take on a bigger role going forward.

SIEGEL: No, (laughter) it would seem not. That's NPR's Sarah McCammon. Thanks, Sarah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.