CLEVELAND, Ohio (AFP) - A Trump staffer apologised on Wednesday (July 20) for using remarks by Michelle Obama in a speech delivered by Melania Trump at the Republican National Convention that ignited a deeply embarrassing plagiarism row.
The speech from the ex-model, watched by millions on television on Monday night, amounted to a nightmarish start for the convention and subjected her husband’s presidential campaign to withering scrutiny.
Melania Trump had “always liked” the Democratic first lady and had “read me some passages from Mrs Obama’s speech” as examples of what she wanted to tell the convention, said staffer Meredith McIver.
“I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech.
“I did not check Mrs Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused,” she said in a statement released by the Trump campaign. “No harm was meant.”
McIver said Trump had refused to accept her resignation, saying that “people make innocent mistakes,” according to her statement.
“I apologise for the confusion and hysteria my mistake has caused,” said McIver, who was identified as an in-house staff writer from the Trump Organisation.
“I personally admire the way Mr Trump has handled this situation and I am grateful for his understanding.”
Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to comment on the swirling controversy, saying: “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 also took a swipe at the media, which he has repeatedly alleged is biased against him and favors Democratic presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who herself has recently been mired in an e-mail scandal.
“The media is spending more time doing a forensic analysis of Melania’s speech than the FBI spent on Hillary’s e-mails,” he wrote.
Michelle Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer, has high approval ratings across the country and in Melania’s home city has been embraced in New York fashion circles for her sense of style and elegance.
With millions watching on television, the Slovenia-born former model delivered an eloquent and seemingly heartfelt defense of her husband.
“Donald is, and always has been, an amazing leader,” said the 46-year-old. “Now, he will go to work for you.”
Despite the unmistakable similarities to remarks given by Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic convention, the Trump campaign initially denied any wrongdoing, then made a tacit admission before attempting to insulate Melania, adding to a picture of a campaign in chaos.
But at the convention itself, many Republicans were unperturbed, with delegates and party members praising Melania for her grace and poise in delivering a speech in what is thought to be her fifth language.