You've got to admire the Trump campaign for its sheer chutzpah, if nothing else.
Faced with evidence that whole paragraphs of Melania Trump's RNC keynote address Monday night were plagiarized from a speech made by Michelle Obama eight years ago, Team Trump essentially had two options: Fess up—like Barack Obama did during his first presidential campaign—or deny, deny, deny. Guess which one they went with?
On Tuesday, Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's campaign manager, insisted to CNN's Chris Cuomo that the line-for-line similarities between Melania and Michelle's speeches wasn't an instance of cribbing at all: She simply used "common words"…that just so happened to have been spoken in the exact same order by someone else, years before.
"This is, once again, an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton how she seeks to demean her and take her down," Manafort explained, going on the offensive in an quixotic attempt to blame the presumptive Democratic nominee for Melania's screw-up. (The Clinton campaign has yet to comment on the plagiarism accusations.)
But Manafort isn't the only one whose idea of "damage control" is to simply write the supposed plagiarism off entirely. CNN contributor and longtime Trump ally Jeffrey Lord urged people to "have a sense of perspective," adding, "this is not Benghazi."
On the Today show this morning, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dismissed the accusation of stealing as well, saying "93% of the speech is different"—to the dismay of high school English teachers who now face a school year full of explaining to students why 7% still counts as plagiarism.
"I know Melania," Christie told an incredulous sounding Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie. "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 all the time."
The question of who actually penned Melania's speech is a tricky one. On Monday afternoon and before her speech, she told Lauer, "I wrote it." However, in a statement put out by the campaign after the accusations of plagiarism were leveled against Melania, Trump's Sr. Communications Advisor, Jason Miller, charged that the speech was written by a "team of writers."
Come Tuesday morning, it would appear the Trump campaign is ready to throw Melania under the bus: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough reported that several sources who claim Paul Manafort has named Melania herself as the one responsible for adding the plagiarized lines into the speech.
"We've got three different reporters that have come back with information saying that Manafort is claiming—or those close to Manafort are claiming—that Melania Trump was the one who added Michelle Obama's words to the speech," Scarborough said.
By mid-Tuesday morning, Manafort appeared to take a more conciliatory approach to the incident, citing the experiences described in Michelle/Meliana’s messages as being shared by many, regardless of who wrote the actual words. “These are themes that are personal to [Melania],” he explained. “But they’re personal to a lot of people depending on the stories of their lives.”
Onetime presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson seemed to echo that same sentiment, urging the public to see the plagiarism as an example of common ground between Democrats and Republicans”
No matter who penned Melania's speech, this is hardly the first time Trump and his campaign has been accused of plagiarizing ideas. As The New York Times reported in late June, the candidate's much-criticized, legally questionable Trump University attempted to pass off lessons "plagiarized from an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier" as nuggets of Trump's own moneymaking wisdom.
Plagiarized lines from Michelle Obama weren't the only noteworthy part of Melania's speech, though: Keen-eared listeners may have picked up on a familiar refrain from an '80s classic.
The Trump campaign has yet to address the accusation of Rick Rolling, as well.
This story will be updated as further comments are made public