Sitting next to him, Wolf Blitzer even offered the Trump campaign an out, suggesting Trump had been done a disservice by a speechwriter. Blitzer encouraged the author to come forward and apologize and even said that "we feel bad for Melania Trump."
The Trump campaign is not taking that out. In fact, it's pretending that nobody did anything wrong.
Get ready for some pretty brazen defenses.
“There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech," Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, said Tuesday morning on CNN. "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. I mean, it's so — 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. It's not going to work."
Yes, this is all Clinton's fault, somehow. And the media is just out to get Melania Trump by making this up whole-cloth.
Manafort added later Tuesday morning at a press conference, "Somebody from CBS told me we're talking about 50 words, and that includes and and the. ... There was no word-by-word. There were other 1,400 words in that speech."
Let's just recap how similar the two passages are:
Plagiarism experts will have to decide whether Tapper's evaluation is correct and this is technically plagiarism. But it's clear that the words Melania Trump spoke on Monday night were very similar to the ones spoken by Michelle Obama eight years ago.
What's more, the fact that Trump's speech was a convention speech delivered by a potential first lady — same as Michelle Obama's eight years ago — would make the similarities between the two speeches a coincidence of epic proportions. What are the odds that the speech that sounds so similar to Melania Trump's just happens to be the one Michelle Obama gave eight years ago in basically the exact same situation?
To say that all of this is not a big deal is one thing; to say that "there's no cribbing" is to really double down hard — in the face of pretty strong evidence.
Contra Manafort, RNC Chair Reince Priebus suggests something was indeed wrong with Melania Trump's speech, saying it's "reasonable" that someone would be fired over it. And Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis, on MSNBC, agreed: "I'm sure action will be taken in the campaign to ensure it never happens again."
Which brings us to Chris Christie, who opted for more of a not-a-big-deal approach.
Asked on the "Today" show if this was plagiarism, Christie brushed it off: "Not when 93 percent of the speech is completely different than Michelle Obama’s speech."
This is a bad defense. Christie seems to acknowledge that 7 percent of the speech is in fact quite similar to Obama's, but he says the fact that the vast majority is not means this isn't plagiarism.
That kind of defense, needless to say, wouldn't pass muster with basically any professor or high school teacher — or editor. "I only cribbed 7 percent" still means you cribbed and used somebody else's words. It also kind-of, sort-of contradicts Manafort's assertion that nothing at all was cribbed.
Look, it's valid to question just how much people care about this stuff, but for now the Trump campaign isn't even doing that; it's just obfuscating and even trying to pretend like this is just one big coincidence or media conspiracy.
"The rest of it's making a mountain out of a molehill from people I think basically who are political enemies and have an ax to grind," Paul said. "This is really about information and attacks coming from haters. The person who's leading this attack [Rachel Maddow] — she's been spreading hate on me for about three years now."
But Paul even acknowledged that he was sloppy and that stuff was "borrowed." For now, the Trump campaign isn't even acknowledging that. It's opting to try to defend something that perhaps can't be proven but looks to be awfully apparent. And that's going to give this story legs at a time when the Trump team would probably prefer the focus be on something like what a good speech Melania Trump gave.
Throw on top of that the fact that Melania Trump is still a pretty blank slate in the eyes of the American people, and the idea that she would go out there in her big moment and speak somebody else's words is something that would seem worthy of our time.
This is the potential first lady, after all, and the Trump campaign seems as though it would rather pretend she's just some random surrogate.