CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Donald Trump campaign on Tuesday denied allegations that Melania Trump plagiarized a Michelle Obama speech on the first night of the Republican National Convention, calling the accusation “just really absurd.”
“To think that she would do something like that knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be last night is just really absurd,” Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day.”
At least one passage in Trump’s speech Monday night plagiarized from Obama’s address to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
Side-by-side comparisons of the transcripts show the text in Trump’s address following, nearly to the word, the would-be future first lady’s own from the first night of the Democratic convention in Denver nearly eight years ago.
Manafort said the words Melania used were not “cribbed” but are common words.
“There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech. These were common words and values. She cares about her family,” Manafort said. “To think that she’d be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy.”
Manafort said attacks on Trump’s speech are due to Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, being “threatened” by Trump.
“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,” he said.
The controversy quickly overshadowed the speech, which was to have been her introduction to voters. It focused on her immigration to the US and her love for her husband.
A Republican operative familiar with how the campaign was handling the speeches said a number of senior aides had a role, edited Melania’s speech, suggested changes and provided guidance. Manafort told CNN’s Phil Mattingly earlier Tuesday that he wasn’t involved in drafting the speech and served solely in a sign-off role.
The Trump campaign released a statement on the speech after the similarities were uncovered, but the statement did not mention the plagiarism charge.
“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. Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success,” according to Jason Miller, the senior communications adviser.
Earlier in the day, Melania Trump told NBC’s Matt Lauer: “I read once over it, that’s all, because I wrote it … with (as) little help as possible.”
Here is Trump, on Monday:
“From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son,” Trump said.
And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because 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.”
And here is Obama, on August 25, 2008:
“And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.
And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and to pass them on to the next generation. Because 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.”
“(To be honest), I was more offended by just about every other speech than Melania’s plagiarized paragraphs,” former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau jokingly tweeted as the accusations went viral hours after Trump’s address.
Journalist Jarrett Hill seems to have been one of the first to notice the similarities on Twitter.
He’s a big fan of the Obamas, and told CNN over the phone that one particular line from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech really spoke to him: “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.”
When he heard Melania Trump start saying “the only limit to your achievements,” he knew something was wrong.
Hill said he then Googled Michelle Obama’s speech and saw the similar lines.
“It was kind of a total recall moment,” he said.
After he posted the comparison on Twitter, his tweet garnered 16,000 retweets.
“Um. This is becoming a thing,” he later tweeted.
Never gonna let you down?
In an even stranger twist, some on social media posited that Trump surreptitiously Rickrolled — a common Internet meme involving singer Rick Astley — everyone in the middle of her speech.
“He will never give up,” she said of her husband. “And most importantly, he will never, ever let you down.”
The chorus of the 80s classic sounds very similar: “Never gonna give you up/ Never gonna let you down/ Never gonna run around and desert you.”
A bit of background — Rickrolling is where you get someone to unwittingly click on a link to the video of the Astley song “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
So, for example, if someone were to tell you to click here, saying it’s another article about Melania Trump, and you click on that link, you would be taken to an Astley video and thus have been Rickrolled.
— CNN’s Josh Berlinger, Maeve Reston, Phil Mattingly and Gloria Borger contributed to this report.