Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was willing to acknowledge this morning that Melania Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama. He said, however, this incident wasn’t her fault, and if it were up to him, Priebus would “probably” fire the speechwriter.
Just a couple of hours later, however, the RNC apparently switched gears. This BuzzFeed article may seem like a joke, but it’s very real.
Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer on Tuesday quoted My Little Pony in a bid to prove Melania Trump’s convention speech did not plagiarize First Lady Michelle Obama. […]“Melania Trump said, ‘The strength of your dreams and willingness to work for them,” [Spicer told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer]. “Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony said, ‘This is your dream. Anything you can do in your dream you can do now.’”The quote comes from the 2015 My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode “Do Princesses Dream Of Magic Sheep?”.
Um, OK, but those two excerpts aren’t identical. Melania Trump’s speech included several phrases that were word-for-word copies of Michelle Obama’s speech from eight years ago.
I’m not sure what’s more peculiar: watching the Republican National Committee’s spokesperson quoting “My Little Pony” on national television or watching him pretend not to understand what “plagiarism” means.
But even putting that aside, the mind-numbing partisan pushback has changed the nature of the controversy. What began as an obvious example of lazy, clumsy plagiarism has suddenly become a story about a Republican test of how effectively they can create their own reality – and convince the political world to play along.
A spokesperson for Donald Trump, for example, told The Hill, “These are values, Republican values by the way, of hard work, determination, family values, dedication and respect, and that’s Melania Trump. This concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd.”
There was no indication she was kidding.
NBC News’ Chuck Todd added on Twitter, “This new more robust defense of Melania Trump speech in last few hours by RNC and campaign looks silly given earlier equivocating statements.”
It’s an important detail: this morning, Republican officials weren’t eager to defend the plagiarism, but they at least understood that it had happened. Then marching orders were apparently delivered, telling assorted partisans to reverse course, concede nothing, and deny obvious truths.
We’re learning a lot about Team Trump’s character, its capacity for self-correction, and its ability to take responsibility when things go sideways. There are legitimate questions that deserve answers about why Melania Trump presented Michelle Obama’s words as her own, but as the second day of the convention gets underway, we’re also left to wonder why this presidential campaign would rather lie than acknowledge a mistake.