Before we get into the Trump campaign’s new explanation for Melania Trump’s convention speech plagiarizing Michelle Obama, let’s quickly review the remarkable series of defenses that preceded today’s unexpected announcement.
After it was obvious that Melania Trump presented the First Lady’s words as her own, the Trump campaign, its surrogates, and its allies experimented with a variety of explanations, starting with the notion that the incident was unimportant because it was only a couple of paragraphs. This gave way to arguments that this clear example of plagiarism wasn’t plagiarism at all – because it was really just an amazing coincidence.
And that’s when things got really interesting. The controversy, we were told, was Hillary Clinton’s fault. The controversy was also based on the assertion that Michelle Obama “invented the English language.” For reasons I still don’t understand, the RNC’s Sean Spicer started talking about “My Little Pony.” A Trump campaign spokesperson argued late yesterday that Melania Trump “wanted to communicate to Americans in phrases they have heard before,” which is probably the funniest of all possible explanations.
Today, after remaining silent on the story for a day, Donald Trump himself weighed in via Twitter, calling the controversy “good news.”
This afternoon, Team Trump changed directions once more, releasing a statement from Meredith Mciver, who described herself as “in-house staff writer at the Trump Organization,” and “a longtime friend and admirer of the Trump family.”
“In working with Melania Trump on her recent First Lady speech, we discussed many people who inspired her and messages she wanted to share with the American people. A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama. Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples.“I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant.”
Mciver said she offered her resignation, but the Trump family “rejected it.”
Her statement went on to tout “Mr. Trump’s historic campaign for president,” and concluded, “I personally admire the way Mr. Trump has handled this situation and I am grateful for his understanding.”
Because if there’s one important thing Trump’s staff wants you to know, it’s that even in the midst of a plagiarism controversy, Trump is awesome.
Given the series of explanations, many of which are contradictory, it’s hard to know what to believe, and it’s possible we’ll never really know the truth about how this mistake happened.
But we do know this: the Republicans who took their cues from Paul Manafort, and spent yesterday saying Melania Trump’s speech wasn’t plagiarism, have now been made to look foolish by the campaign they were trying to help.