Donald Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort Tuesday flatly denied that Melania Trump's opening-night convention speech
was cribbed from First Lady Michelle Obama's 2008 Democratic National Convention speech, and blamed the growing controversy on Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton feeling threatened by her.
"There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech," Manafort told CNN's Chris Cuomo on the "New Day"
program. "These are common words and values that she cares about — her family, things like that. 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."
And the controversy, he said, was spurred by Clinton.
"This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down," he told Cuomo. "It's not going to work."
Cuomo told Manafort that the talk about the speech is not "some suggestion without proof," and that he does not know why the campaign doesn't own the problem and say people borrow phrases.
He pointed to a 2008 controversy, when Clinton accused then-candidate Barack Obama of taking parts of a campaign speech from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick
, and Obama admitted to using some phrases.
"He did do it, that's correct," Manafort told Cuomo. "But in this particular case, there was a collaboration. Certainly there's no feeling on her part that she did it, that what she did was use words that are common words.
"To expect her to think that she would do something like that, knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be last night, is just really absurd."
Manafort's comments differed from those made by Trump spokesman Jason Miller overnight, and by Melania Trump's own words in an NBC News interview.
"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.
Melania Trump, meanwhile, told NBC that "I wrote it" and added that she "had a little help."
Talk of her speech dominated the morning talk shows, particularly on MSNBC's "Morning Joe,"
where a video clip played a side-by-side comparison of the two women's speeches, and show host Joe Scarborough reported later in the morning that Manafort was blaming Trump's spouse for the speech.
"I have been making calls, and Katy Tur [NBC reporter covering Trump's campaign] is also making calls," said Scarborough. "This is what we know right now — from what Katy Tur is reporting and what Mark Halperin and I have started to dissect — each family member was given a family member they were responsible for. Donald Trump made it very clear that the most important family member was Melania Trump."
And Manafort, Scarborough said, "put one of his most trusted deputies on her for a "speech she did not want to do."
"Donald Trump pushed her into doing this speech, saying it was very important to do," said Scarborough. "Katy Tur is reporting this morning that Melania Trump has become disillusioned with the campaign and did not show up with the [Indiana Gov.] Mike Pence selection because she felt like the children had put too much pressure on her husband to select a vice presidential candidate that he was not comfortable with."
A source has told Tur that this is "now a save my marriage situation" and that Manafort has "actually thrown Melania Trump under the bus."
"We have three different reporters that have come back saying that Manafort is claiming, or those close to Manafort, are claiming that Melania Trump is the one that added Michelle Obama's words to the speech," said Scarborough. "You don't have to have a masters degree in political science to know that that stuff is not going to fly."
And, after the news broke about Manafort's comments to CNN, "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski
angrily demanded that he should "look for another job."
"This is the same guy that came on this show yesterday and called [Ohio Gov.] John Kasich an embarrassment," she continued. "I'm serious, that guy is so negative. That guy is so divisive. What does he do besides create trouble?"
But show host Joe Scarborough pointed out that her statement was her opinion, and insisted that the matter was a "crisis matter issue."
"When you make a mistake and it's clear you make a mistake, you get it behind you as quickly as possible," he said. "There have been problems before in the past with this campaign where they let things just bleed and bleed and bleed. In this case, don't they have to finish it quickly?"
"To subject a spouse to what is now going to be a day-long controversy is almost a PR crime," Nicolle Wallace, former communications director for President George W. Bush commented.
Bloomberg Politics editor Mark Halperin also said the campaign needs to get past the controversy, and to do that, it will need to "fire somebody."
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