Hollywood's GOP Delegates Defend Melania Trump, Attack Press
"The idea they're treating this like the Watergate scandal is crazy," says Ann Coulter.
CLEVELAND — As the Melania Trump plagiarizing scandal dominates the media, delegates — in particular those in Hollywood, who understand a thing or two about optics — are coming to the defense of their hopeful future first lady.
“The whole thing is ridiculous,” said actor Mark Vafiades, chairman of the Republican party of Los Angeles and one of California’s 172 delegates. “Everyone has speechwriters. She told them what she wanted to say, and the speechwriters put it to paper.”
Vafiades and several others who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter say the media has been looking for a way to criticize the former supermodel and wife of Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP candidate for president.
“It was an inspiring speech, so the press and the Democratic establishment had to do something to detract from that fact,” said Vafiades.
The media firestorm began Monday night, shortly after Melania Trump finished her primetime address to the delegates gathered in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention. A paragraph of her speech where she praises honesty and hard work was strikingly similar to a paragraph from the speech Michelle Obama delivered eight years ago at the Democratic National Convention.
Dozens of pundits, including Brit Hume of conservative-leaning Fox News, have assailed Melania for lifting portions of the speech from Obama.
“She didn’t intentionally plagiarize anything. I guess you have to question the motivation of the speechwriters. Everyone needs them, especially when English isn’t your first language,” said actress Mell Flynn, another California delegate and president of the Hollywood Congress of Republicans.
“I’m wondering if a speechwriter actually wanted to hurt her, to create a scandal. I know they vetted them, but the Trumps are new to this,” she said. “The press loves a scandal and loves attacking Trump. They’ll attack, attack, attack. I’m sure she’s horrified by this.”
“She’s not running for president, so it doesn’t matter,” said actor Nick Loeb, who just wrapped the independent film Swing State.
“She’s not a public speaker, so to perform as well as she did is impressive. It’s not her world,” said Loeb, an honorary delegate for New Jersey.
“The media is looking for a scandal, and she’s being criticized because she did so well. That’s why they’re f—ing coming after her,” he added.
Shawn Steel, the RNC representative for California, said the controversy could work to Trump’s favor.
“This is a 24-hour story and the media will show Melania’s photo a lot, and guess who wins that game,” he said.
“Already, every media outlet has mug shots of Melania Trump and Michelle Obama, and Melania looks pretty good,” said Steel. “About 30 million people liked the speech, and 10,000 did not. Those are the kinds of metrics Donald Trump likes.”
Nevertheless, he added: “It was amateur hour, and I’m sure the staffer who wrote those lines is looking for new work.”
Steel continued: “It’s common practice in politics to borrow words. But Melania is the victim here. I guarantee you she never spent time reading Michelle Obama’s speeches. She has a life.”
Pundit Ann Coulter, also in Cleveland, told THR the media is obsessed with the story — and she knows because she's getting nonstop calls from TV and radio asking her to comment.
"It's the craziest thing I've ever seen. They were up all night at Huffington Post and MSNBC," she said.
"It was the most trite cliche, Hallmark-card greeting ever, " Coulter said of the section allegedly plagiarized. "It's like a coach saying, 'Keep your head down and fight to win.' This is saccharine-sweet stuff about children working hard and pursuing their dreams. The idea they're treating this like the Watergate scandal is crazy."
Coulter is one of Trump's earliest, high-profile supporters. Her book, In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! is due Aug. 23.
"The first lady's job is to be pretty and lovely and not to talk much. This isn't a two-for-the-price-of-one candidacy," Coulter said.
And at a screening of Clinton Cash, an anti-Bill and Hillary Clinton movie, delegates similarly and eagerly defended Melania Trump. But Milo Yiannopoulos, the gay conservative activist from Breitbart News who introduced the film, said the scandal is actually a tactic.
"Nobody understands how smart Trump is. Everybody today is relating Melania to the first lady. They did this on purpose," he said.
"Real people don't care about plagiarism, only journalists do," said Yiannopoulos. "What is everybody talking about? How hot Melania looked and that silly little speech. It's genius."
He added: "Everyone thinks the Trump campaign is a chaotic mess, but this stuff doesn't happen by accident. They didn't get here by being stupid."