Chris Christie, Paul Manafort Dismiss Melania Trump Plagiarism Accusations

Melania Trump RNC 2 - Getty - H 2016
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"There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech. These were common words and values. She was speaking in front of 35 million people Monday night. She knew that. To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy," Trump's campaign manager said on CNN.

Donald Trump supporter Chris Christie and campaign manager Paul Manafort on Tuesday both dismissed allegations that Melania Trump had plagiarized portions of her Monday night speech from Michelle Obama's remarks in 2008.

Speaking on CNN's New Day, Manafort called any charges that Melania intentionally copied the first lady "just really absurd."

"There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech. These were common words and values. She was speaking in front of 35 million people Monday night. She knew that. To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy" he said. "Certainly, there's no feeling on her part that she did it. What she did was use words that are common words. To expect her to do something like that, knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be, is just really absurd."

In a hard-to-understand portion of his interview, Manafort also seemed to try to blame Hillary Clinton.

"I mean, this is, once again, an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down," Manafort said. "It's not going to work."

Melania came under heavy criticism overnight after Jarrett Hill on Twitter and others noticed that two portions of her speech seemed to have been lifted almost word for word from the First Lady's 2008 speech, with news outlets presenting both speeches side by side.

The similar portions involve both women talking about the lessons they learned growing up and how they want to pass those same values onto the next generation.

On Tuesday, NBC's Today show aired more of Matt Lauer's interview with both Trumps, which was taped before Melania's Monday night speech, but Melania didn't offer any further insight into her remarks beyond what NBC News already aired. Specifically that she said she wrote the speech with a "little help" and read it once.

New Jersey Gov. Christie, who's supported Trump since he ended his own White House bid, appeared live on Today, where he also dismissed plagiarism charges leveled against Melania.

Lauer asked Christie about the scandal right off the bat, asking him as "a former prosecutor" if he could "make the case for plagiarism."

"Nah, not when 93 percent of the speech is completely different than Michelle Obama's speech," Christie said. "They expressed some common thoughts."

When asked by Savannah Guthrie if this signaled anything about the "staff work" of Trump's campaign, that "something like this could slip through the cracks," Christie doubled down on his defense of Melania, saying her speech "sounded like her."

"They're trying to do a lot of things at the same time," Christie said of the Trump campaign. "I know Melania. 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. And having been friends with them for 14 years, that sounded like her to me last night."


Later Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said he would "probably" fire his speechwriters if they lifted passages from someone else's remarks. Priebus told reporters at a Bloomberg breakfast that the controversy was a "distraction" but said he expected the convention to get back on message Tuesday.

Asked about Priebus' comments, Manafort told the AP, "Frankly, if I knew somebody did it I would fire them too."

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN, on which he currently serves as a contributor, that whoever wrote Melania Trump's speech should be fired.

"Whoever was the staff person who wrote this speech should be held accountable and should be fired," Lewandowski told CNN's John Berman and Kate Bolduan.

CNN also reported, citing sources, that Manafort deputy Rick Gates oversaw Melania Trump's speech but Gates told CNN's Jim Acosta that he did not. Two sources also told CNN that Trump is furious over the episode.

In a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Trump's senior communications advisor Jason Miller said of Gates, “Rick's not a speechwriter and he doesn't have a role in the campaign's speechwriting process -- we have other people for that. Anybody saying differently is being intentionally misleading.”

Nevertheless, CNN reports that the Trump campaign has no plans to fire anybody over the scandal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

July 19, 7:33 a.m. This story has been updated to include Reince Priebus' comments at a Bloomberg breakfast.

July 19, 9:27 a.m. This story has been updated to include CNN's reporting and Lewandowski's comments.

July 20, 4:13 a.m. This story has been updated with Jason Miller's statement about Rick Gates.