The Trump campaign today offered a speechwriter as sacrifice for Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech. But in explaining how she, and she alone, ruined the convention, the speechwriter also confirmed that not only was the speech intentionally lifted from Michelle Obama’s address but that Melania was fully aware she was speaking the First Lady’s words.
That would, of course, run counter to Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s official explanation, that words are common and no one owns them and any similarities were an accident.
“To think that she’d be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy,” Manafort said.
Not that crazy—in a letter notably written on letterhead identifying her as an employee of the Trump Organization, which, under federal law, cannot lend a campaign its resources, speechwriter Meredith McIver admitted the two worked together to crib Michelle Obama’s words.
(According to the New York Times, the first draft of the speech was written by two professional speechwriters, Matthew Scully and John McConnell, and later stripped down and largely rewritten by Melania, who apparently recruited McIver—a former ballerina who has contributed to some of Trump’s books—to assist in the rewrite.)
The relevant passage in McIver’s mea culpa is as follows: “In working with Melania Trump on her recent First Lady speech, we discussed many people who inspired her and messages she wanted to share with the American people. A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama. Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. 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 that I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama.”
It’s a tricky needle for the Trump campaign to thread. Melania has already said, on the record, that she wrote her speech, and yet her speech clearly plagiarizes Michelle Obama’s speech. McIver’s explanation takes the blame off Melania, but it also confirms Melania knew the whole time the highly specific phrases she was saying came directly from Michelle Obama’s speech.