Politics

Who's Going to Get Fired Over Melania Trump Speech?

Top Manafort aide was responsible for speech, according to reports

Responsibility for Melania Trump's speech reportedly lay with Rick Gates, a top aide to Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In the wake of plagiarism accusations that have embroiled Melania Trump's speech at the Republican National Convention Monday night, many people are asking: Who's going to get fired over this?  

Although Donald Trump is reported to be furious over the accusations surrounding his wife's speech, the Trump camp is not going fire anyone over the plagiarisms accusations, according to CNN .    

Campaign aide Rick Gates signed off on and edited the speech, according to The Guardian and other media outlets.  

Gates is a former lobbying partner of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and does not have experience in presidential campaigns. He has been described as a Trump delegate wrangler and a top aide to the campaign .  

Manafort said Tuesday that the plagiarism accusations were "crazy," telling CNN that Melania Trump's remarks were "common words and values."  

A number of political professionals, however, have said that heads should roll over the debacle. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, told Bloomberg Politics Tuesday that he would "probably" fire the speechwriter .  

Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager, took a shot at his replacement Monday, saying Manafort is responsible for everything that happens at the convention.  

"Well I can tell you that when I was the campaign manager the buck stopped with me and I am sitting here with CNN now," Lewandowski said. "When you are looking at and scrutinizing the GOP nominee's wife to give the largest speech, in front of 35 million people, there is no detail that you should overlook."  

Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson took issue with that: “Well I say anyone can have an opinion based on what they think happened. And Paul Manafort was right — this is not something that Melania Trump did. She did write the speech with help, as she has said herself. But what she did was give a speech from her heart.”  

Pierson said the speech was not copied but acknowledged there were similarities, saying that the words that were used in both speeches “can be found in any motivational book.”  

[ Manafort Denies Melania Cribbed Michelle Obama's Speech ]  

Steve Schmidt, a longtime Republican operative and John McCain's campaign manager in 2008, said Tuesday morning that "this is a plagiarized speech, hands down, game, set, match on that. What an outrageous disservice to Melania Trump by the speechwriters on that campaign."  

"This is not a good first night, and now you have brought scandal to a prospective first lady in the form of her convention speech," Schmidt said. "Just an outrageous incompetence and disservice to her by that campaign."  

RNC communications director Sean Spicer vehemently defended the Trump campaign and said Melania Trump’s speech included “certain common phrases that we all use,” and was not plagiarized.  

“We’re talking about 70 words, three passages,” he said.  

Spicer then quoted similar but not identical language about the value of working hard and children working for their dreams from John Mayer, Kid Rock and Twilight Sparkle of My Little Pony, among others. He attributed the differences to word placement but said the sentiments are commonly offered.  

“At some point either everybody is plagiarizing everybody or this is a silly exercise [orchestrated] by the Clinton campaign,” he said.  

Bloomberg Politics editor Mark Halperin said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that the campaign "did a huge disservice to her. She obviously worked so hard on her presentation."  

"They are lucky that stuff like this does not happen more often given how few people work there," Halperin said. "No campaign that had a full apparatus would possibly let something like this happen."  

[ 'Mind If I Borrow That?' Long History of Political Plagiarism ]  

Nicolle Wallace, a former George W. Bush communications director, said on NBC's "Today" that it is even more important to protect a candidate's spouse.  

"There clearly aren't press people folks at the table making strategic decisions because you never subject a spouse to this," Wallace said in response to Manafort's doubling-down on the speech not being plagiarized.  

"You get a spouse in and out of political controversy as quickly as possible because a spouse is largely immune from the kinds of partisan attacks that come at a political figure," Wallace said. "Instead of letting her get in and out of this scandal quickly, they are going to guarantee that the campaign spends all day talking about whether or not she plagiarized Michelle Obama's speech, which it certainly looks like she did."  

— Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report

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