Paul Manafort, chairman of Trump’s campaign, rejected accusations of plagiarism during several back-to-back television interviews here in Cleveland. At other times, he said the controversy was overblown and “crazy.”
At one point, he also blamed former secretary of state Hillary Clinton for the controversy.
“There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech. These are common words and values that she cares about her family, things like that,” Manafort told CNN on Tuesday morning. “I mean, she was speaking in front of 35 million people last night. She knew that. To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy.”
“This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down. It's not going to work,” Manafort added.
Those comments were all the more confusing because Trump’s senior communications adviser, Jason Miller, had released a statement earlier in the day that seemingly acknowledged that several “fragments” were taken from other speeches. That statement was reportedly co-written with Manafort.
"In writing her beautiful speech, Melania's team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking,” Miller said in the statement. “Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success.”
Donald Trump Jr. said Tuesday during an interview with ABC's David Muir that he did not believe the lines were directly lifted. "I don't think there was anything in there that was that novel in terms of those particular lines," he said. "I saw pretty common words in there. Honestly, there was no novel thought in that."
The assertions were contradicted Monday when a longtime Trump Organization staffer, Meredith McIver, said in a statement released by the campaign that she unintentionally included the passages after conversations with Melania about other speeches she admired.
"In working with Melania Trump ... 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," she said in the statement. "I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant." She said that she offered her resignation to Donald Trump but that he and the family rejected it.
The Trump family remained largely quiet about the incident on Tuesday, though by Wednesday morning Donald Trump had begun to tweet his disapproval of how the media had covered the story.
"Good news is Melania's speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!" he said in one tweet.
"The media is spending more time doing a forensic analysis of Melania's speech than the FBI spent on Hillary's emails,” he wrote in another.