Nobody is blaming Melania Trump, who did a nice job in the harsh spotlight.
But the colossal screwup over the passages that were strikingly similar to Michelle Obama’s Democratic convention speech is getting worse because the campaign is denying the obvious.
Folks, the video evidence is out there. Cable news channels are playing the Melania/Michelle similarities back to back. Everyone knows the Trump campaign is allergic to apologies, but insisting that this was a mere coincidence is just inflaming the media coverage.
It is, of course, not that big a deal. Melania is neither a politician nor a practiced public speaker. Although she claimed ownership of the Cleveland address in an interview, it’s clear that it was largely the work of speechwriters. What, they thought no one would notice that the current first lady used some of the same phrases in 2008?
So in insisting that the story is bogus, campaign officials are actually giving it legs by prompting anchors and reporters to prove the case and to question why the Trump operation persists in its denials.
“There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech,” campaign chief Paul Manafort told CNN’s “New Day” this morning. “These were common words and values …To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy. I mean and so this is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks out to demean her and take her down it's not going to work.”
What does this have to do with threatening Hillary Clinton?
The controversy is taking the focus off the hard-edged speeches by Rudy Giuliani and others on Monday night in favor of a flap that is, in all honesty, more fun for journalists to cover.
Here is some of the wording, via the New York Times:
Melania Trump, 2016:
"From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”
Michelle Obama, 2008:
“Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them. And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”
Whatever you think of the contretemps, I love that it was broken by a random dude on Twitter. Jarrett Hill, described as an interior designer and journalist, was sitting in a Starbucks in L.A. when he noticed one similarity from eight years ago and began checking for others.
The other striking thing from last night: While Patricia Smith, whose son was killed in Benghazi, was blaming Hillary Clinton on stage, Trump called in to Bill O’Reilly—essentially preempting his own convention for those few minutes. No one ever called him a conventional candidate.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.