- Reuters/Aaron Bernstein
CLEVELAND – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa told reporters Tuesday that Melania Trump “didn’t plagiarize” first lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech from the Democratic National Convention.
“She didn’t plagiarize,” the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said of Trump’s Monday night speech at the Republican National Convention. “Because I think you gave a definition of plagiarism. What you’re saying is that I could say the same thing that Mrs. Obama said because I put screwholes in furnace registers in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in an assembly line for 10 years. I think I had the same privilege that Mrs. Obama had.”
Grassley said he thought the “most important” part of Trump’s speech was when she called her becoming an American citizen the highest privilege any person could have.
The Iowa Republican’s comments came as Donald Trump’s campaign downplayed the overt similarities between his wife’s speech to Obama’s 2008 address.
In a series of early-morning media appearances, top campaign officials and surrogates shrugged off the controversy, which emerged after observers noticed striking similarities between a section of the two speeches.
On “CBS This Morning,” Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, denied that she lifted any of Obama’s speech, saying that there were “not that many similarities.” He also alleged that the presumptive Republican nominee’s wife may have lifted from the first lady’s speech “subconsciously.”
“It’s basically three places in the speech, and it’s fragments of words,” Manafort said. “There was nothing that she did in that speech that she thought was any words but herself.”
Manafort defended the speech-writing process, which he described as a “collaboration” between Trump and the campaign, and said that he “can’t remember what Obama said eight years ago.”
“We’re talking about compassion, love of family, respect – these are not words that belong to the Obama family,” Manafort said.
In a press conference Tuesday morning, he alleged that presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign was responsible for finding the clip.
“It’s just another example as far as we’re concerned that when Hillary Clinton is threatened by a female, the first thing she does is try to destroy the person,” Manafort said.
Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski took a different tone and said that Manafort should “do the right thing” and “resign” if he personally signed off on the speech.
“If he was the last person who saw this and saw this happen, and brought this on the candidate’s wife, I think he would resign because I think that’s the type of person he would be,” Lewandowski said.