Donald Trump’s wife included two paragraphs that were incredibly similar to the remarks that Michelle Obama delivered at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
The Trump campaign quickly launched into a defense of Melania, throwing out everything from attacks on Hillary Clinton to references to My Little Pony. For those just coming to the story, here’s a quick guide to how the Trump campaign has responded so far.
1) The "blame Hillary" defense
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was among the first to defend Melania in an early morning CNN interview. He argued that the whole controversy was Hillary Clinton’s fault and that the presumptive Democratic nominee would lash out at anyone who attacked her.
"Once again, this is an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks to demean her and take her down," Manafort said in a Tuesday morning interview with CNN.
2) The "93 percent" defense
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told NBC’s Today show that Melania’s speech was "93 percent" different from Michelle’s — so why all the fuss?
When asked whether Melania’s speech could be construed as plagiarism, Christie responded, "No. Not when 93 percent of the speech is completely different from Michelle Obama's speech."
3) The "Michelle Obama didn’t invent English" defense
As we moved into Tuesday afternoon, new explanations began to appear. In a brief Facebook Live interview with the Hill, Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson made the case that this was just two people speaking the same language.
"And this concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd," Pierson said. "Look at the remarks from Laura Bush in 2004 and I think you will find something similar."
4) The "English isn’t Melania’s first language" defense
This one also came from Pierson, who appeared on MSNBC in the early afternoon to discuss Melania’s remarks.
"She did write the speech with help, as she has said herself, but what she did was give a speech from her heart," she continued, according to a report from Mediaite. "This is a woman where English is not her native language."
MSNBC host Craig Melvin interrupted her to say, "But that’s not an excuse."
"Oh, absolutely," Pierson quickly agreed. "She did a phenomenal job."
5) The My Little Pony/John Legend/Kid Rock defense
The most recent defense, at time of writing, involved multiple pop music icons as well as the My Little Pony franchise.
Republican Party communications director and chief strategist Sean Spicer argued that lots of public figures have discussed the importance of hard work — just look at Twilight Sparkle, one of the characters from the hit 1990s cartoon My Little Pony.
"Melania Trump said the strength of your dreams is in your willingness to work for them," Spicer said. "Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony said this is your dream, anything you can do in your dreams you can do now. I mean, if we want to take a bunch of phrases and run them through a Google and say, hey, who else said them, I could come up with a list in five minutes."
Here is the RNC'a chief strategist citing My Little Pony to argue that Melania Trump did not plagiarize her speech pic.twitter.com/eRifu41wHC— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) July 19, 2016
Before getting to Twilight Sparkle, Spicer argued that other pop culture icons have made similar statements. "John Legend said, 'Work hard to be anyone you want in life'; Kid Rock says, 'Work hard to be anything you want in life,'" Spicer told MSNBC.
The Trump campaign rarely admits fault. The Melania case is no exception.
This raft of defenses speaks to something important about the Trump campaign: It frequently resists admitting fault or backing down even in the face of persistent and convincing criticism.
It’s easy to see other campaigns handling this type of event quite differently — admitting fault, apologizing for not offering credit where it was due, and moving on. But not the Trump campaign. And this has irked some Republican insiders, like Stuart Stevens, who served as Romney’s campaign manager in 2012.
The problem with Mrs. Trump's speech is less that it happened & more campaign trying to deny it did. One is a mistake; other character flaw.— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) July 19, 2016
Stevens argued it would be quite easy to issue an apology. He even wrote a sample apology the campaign could use: "In the process of helping Mrs. Trump, writers mistakenly included unoriginal material. We apologize & it won't happen again."
But the Trump campaign has gone in the opposite direction, issuing an ever-changing variety of defenses that admit no fault in Melania’s speech.