Media figures are calling out the “unbelievable” lies of Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who blamed criticism of Melania Trump’s plagiarized Republican National Convention speech on Hillary Clinton.
Trump's Campaign Chairman Blames Hillary Clinton For Criticism Of Melania Trump's Plagiarized Speech
Trump Campaign Denies Plagiarism, Blames Clinton For Reaction. The New York Times reported that when confronted by accusations of plagiarism regarding the speech by Melania Trump -- Republican nominee Donald Trump’s wife -- campaign chairman Paul Manafort “pushed back aggressively” by “attack[ing] Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, for what he said was an effort to draw attention to the matter.” From the Times:
Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, pushed back aggressively against accusations of plagiarism and even tried to go on the offensive.
Describing it as “a great speech,” Mr. Manafort said at a morning convention briefing that “obviously Michelle Obama feels very similar sentiments toward her family.”
Deflecting questions about the passages themselves, Mr. Manafort instead attacked Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, for what he said was an effort to draw attention to the matter.
“This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks out to demean her and take her down,” Mr. Manafort said on CNN. “It’s not going to work against Melania Trump.” [The New York Times, 7/19/16]
“I Can’t Believe This Guy”: Media Figures Trash Manafort’s “Astonishing” Clinton Defense
MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski On Manafort: “This Is Unbelievable. I Can’t Believe This Guy.” MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski condemned Manafort’s “unbelievable” claim that the plagiarism controversy was caused by Clinton’s feeling “threatened by a female.” Brzezinski commented, “I can’t believe this guy,” and asked, “What year is this?” From the July 20 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): In response to the media storm, chairman Paul Manafort pointed directly -- this is unbelievable. I can't believe this guy.
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): You mean blaming Hillary Clinton?
BRZEZINSKI: Why? He’s the most negative, kind of harsh person I’ve ever seen leading a campaign.
PAUL MANAFORT: There is a political tint to this whole issue, and certainly we've noted that the Clinton camp was the first to get it out there. When Hillary Clinton is threatened by a female, the first thing she does is try to destroy the person.
BRZEZINSKI: He didn’t do that, did he?
SCARBOROUGH: First of all, that wasn't true.
BRZEZINSKI: It's like a female thing? He used the word female? Are you kidding me? What year is this? Is this 1970, Lurch? What? What? We're females. Aren't you lucky you have two females on this panel? You’re outnumbered. Oh, my God.
SCARBOROUGH: Manafort for the past couple days, he's had a horrible Republican convention. He's gotten in the way two days in a row early and often.
BRZEZINSKI: I think he thinks he's great.
SCARBOROUGH: He attacked John Kasich, upset the state. This is a state that they have to win if they want to win the White House. And then the next day, of course, this. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 7/20/16]
NY Magazine’s Eric Levitz Mocks Manafort’s Strategy: “When In Doubt, Accuse Hillary Clinton Of Being A Malign And Omnipotent Force From Which All Human Suffering Does Emanate.” In a July 19 article, Eric Levitz of New York magazine said that to believe Manafort’s claims about Clinton is to believe “that the Democratic nominee literally controls American mass media.“ Levitz mocked Manafort, saying, “When in doubt, accuse Hillary Clinton of being a malign and omnipotent force from which all human suffering does emanate” and concluded that “perhaps the Trump campaign isn't flailing desperately here. Perhaps their position is that Hillary Clinton is literally Beelzebub”:
When in doubt, accuse Hillary Clinton of being a malign and omnipotent force from which all human suffering does emanate.
As of this writing, Hillary Clinton has not commented on the plagiarism fiasco. To suggest that Clinton is behind the negative coverage is to suggest that the Democratic nominee literally controls American mass media. Granted, this isn't that big a leap from the idea that Clinton is personally responsible for the Benghazi attacks, or every murder committed by an undocumented immigrant, or Vince Foster's suicide, or her husband's infidelities. So perhaps the Trump campaign isn't flailing desperately here. Perhaps their position is that Hillary Clinton is literally Beelzebub. [New York magazine, 7/19/16]
NY Times’ Frank Bruni: Manafort’s Defense Is “Astonishing”; “I Don’t Know What Hillary Clinton Has To Do With This.” New York Times columnist Frank Bruni called Manafort’s claim that Clinton was responsible for the plagiarism allegations “astonishing,” commenting, “I don’t know what Hillary Clinton has to do with this.” From the July 19 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): So Frank Bruni, making matters worse, it seems to me the first rule of crisis management is mitigate damages as quickly as possible. Manafort doubling down, saying no plagiarism here, when clearly there's plagiarism.
FRANK BRUNI: Well not just saying no plagiarism here, but I think he put out a statement saying Hillary Clinton is threatened by other women. I don't know what Hillary Clinton has to do with this. This was noticed by many people, not by the Hillary Clinton campaign. And it’s just, it's astonishing, because we keep being told by Donald Trump how amazingly he's going to run the country, but he doesn't seem to be able to run a coherent campaign or put on a convention without controversy. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 7/19/16]
CNN’s David Gregory: Manafort’s Theory Blaming Clinton Comes From “The Wilds Of The Internet.” On the July 19 edition of CNN’s New Day, David Gregory dismissed Manafort’s Clinton defense as “too cute by half,” saying that “this was in the wilds of the internet as far as I could tell”:
CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): Now, did Melania Trump's speech echo, copy, Michelle Obama? The answer is yes. Paul Manafort says the answer is no. “Common language is used in politics all the time. This is about when a strong woman goes against Hillary Clinton.” That's his defense. Does it work?
DAVID GREGORY: Oh, I don't think so. I think it's just too cute by half. Obviously Melania, who took all the credit for writing this speech, obviously got help from staff that either deliberately did this or, I don't know how there’s another way. They obviously looked at some common things that you want to say about family and lessons in life, but they had some recent first lady speeches to draw on. And Michelle Obama's from 2008 came up. Again, I don't know that this is the kind of thing that has a lasting impact, but it speaks to a campaign that's moved very quickly, that's been organized really behind the eight ball. Mistakes like this can happen. And then you have a situation when they really wanted everyone to be focused on the themes that Melania spoke about about her husband, rounding out her husband Donald Trump. Instead we're talking about this misstep by the campaign, compounded by the fact that Paul Manafort then takes it to the level that this is Hillary Clinton taking on someone who is challenging her? I mean, this was in the wilds of the internet as far as I could tell. Maybe the allegation is that they tipped off this guy who was like a fashion reporter or something who started unearthing this. [CNN, New Day, 7/19/16]
PolitiFact: “As It Turns Out, The Clinton Campaign Was Not The First To Note” The Plagiarism. On July 19, Lauren Carroll of PolitiFact explained that Manafort’s claim that Hillary Clinton was responsible for the plagiarism accusations against Melania Trump is false. Carroll found that “the Clinton campaign was not the first to note similarities between the Trump and Obama speeches”:
As it turns out, the Clinton campaign was not the first to note similarities between the Trump and Obama speeches. It was Jarrett Hill, a Los Angeles-based Twitter user who describes himself as an interior designer and a journalist.
“Melania must’ve liked Michelle Obama’s 2008 Convention speech, since she plagiarized it,” Hill tweeted at 10:40 p.m. Monday night.
Hill told PolitiFact that he was watching Trump’s speech, and a couple of the lines made him think, “Whoa, that’s weird. I heard that before.” He then tweeted at some NBC journalists to draw their attention to the similarities to Obama’s speech, and the story blew up.
Hill said he has “literally no ties to the Clinton campaign,” though he is a registered Democrat. He has not heard from anyone involved with the Clinton campaign before or since he uncovered the potential plagiarism.
In fact, the Clinton campaign has not issued any statement or public response to the story, other than the tweet from [senior adviser Jennifer] Palmieri's personal account. One arm, Correct the Record, retweeted one of Hill’s tweets. A few individual campaign staffers have tweeted about it, too.
We rate Manafort's claim False. [PolitiFact, 7/19/16]
Fox’s Brian Kilmeade: “No, Paul. It Was Every Network. It Wasn’t Hillary Clinton.” Manafort appeared on the July 20 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends to discuss Melania Trump’s speech and double down on blaming Clinton. Co-host Brian Kilmeade told Manafort that “it wasn’t Hillary Clinton” making plagiarism accusations -- “it was every network.” From the show:
PAUL MANAFORT: For people to try to disparage that speech and say that it was something that it wasn't, you know, is once again politics. It's Hillary Clinton, once again feeling threatened by a woman and trying to destroy the woman and demean her as a way of positioning her own [inaudible]. We don't buy it.
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): No, Paul, it was every network. It wasn't Hillary Clinton. It was every network made that the focus instead of the eight hours of speeches that took place including hers. So it seems like the networks were lining up against you guys.
MANAFORT: Well they, and they were getting fed information by the Clinton campaign. The bottom line, that speech reflected her values, not Michelle Obama's values. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/20/16]