CLEVELAND (CBSNewYork/AP) — Republicans Tuesday are defending Melania Trump over her speech at the GOP National Convention.
The speech Monday night contained two passages that matched nearly word-for-word a speech Michelle Obama delivered at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie played down criticism over the passages, saying “93 percent of the speech is completely different” than Michelle Obama’s speech delivered eight years ago.
“I know Melania, I think she worked very hard on that speech and a lot of what I heard last night sitting on the floor sounded very much like her and the way she speaks about Donald,” he said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show.
Christie said Melania Trump and Michelle Obama “expressed some common thoughts.” He did not explain how he arrived at the 93 percent figure.
He said on the first day of a party convention “everybody gets breathless about something to cover and a controversy to talk about.”
Christie predicted no one would be talking about the issue after Tuesday.
Long Island Rep. Peter King called Melania’s speech “brilliant.”
“I know that there’s controversy today, but I think the important thing was in her debut to the American people, people liked what they saw,” he told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.
He said the passages were a “staff mistake.”
“Somebody was probably looking at her speech to see what other first ladies have given and later on somebody was putting the speech together, saw that quote and didn’t realize what it was,” he said. “Whatever it was, it wasn’t Melania Trump. She would not have intentionally put that in, nobody would have intentionally put it in. It was a mistake.”
He added, “The speech itself was delivered so well, that’s going to be the impression the American people have.”
Newt Gingrich called the uproar over the speech “baloney.”
In an interview Tuesday, the former House speaker dismissed the issue and pointed out that Vice President Joe Biden abandoned his presidential bid in 1988 for taking parts of British leader Neil Kinnock’s speech and President Barack Obama took heat for copying some of former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s speech.
“It’s a little ripe for the news media to suddenly find how pure they are,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich said it was an effective speech and “I’ll be glad to match our first spouse against Bill Clinton’s first spouse next week. And let people decide which of those two first spouses you want.”
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said he would “probably” fire his speechwriters if they lifted passages from someone else’s remarks.
However, Priebus said he doesn’t “have a view yet” on whether Melania Trump’s convention speech included plagiarized sentences from the first lady’s 2008 address.
Priebus praised Melania Trump for her “inspirational” remarks, particularly her story of immigrating from Slovenia.
He acknowledged the controversy was a “distraction” but said he expected the convention to get back on message Tuesday.
Donald Trump’s campaign chairman agreed with Priebus’ remarks and said he would also fire anyone who may have copied parts of Michelle Obama’s speech.
But Paul Manafort added that he doesn’t believe there was plagiarism.
Manafort told The Associated Press Tuesday “nobody believes” Mrs. Trump plagiarized the speech, but said “Frankly if I knew somebody did it, I would fire them too.”
“There were a few words on it, but they’re not words that were unique words,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of that speech talked about her being an immigrant and love of country and love of family and everything else.”
“This is totally blown out of proportion,” he added. “They’re not even sentences. They’re literally phrases.”
Earlier Tuesday, Manafort called the plagiarism claim “just absurd.”
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