Since Trump rode down the escalator last June, his campaign hasn’t ended a single scandal in a timely fashion: Megyn Kelly, Judge Curiel, Corey Lewandowski, all went on for days and days. Trump’s damage control operation was so bad that many assumed it to be intentional—that he was fanning the flames to distract from other worse scandals, or, at the very least, to keep himself at the center of attention. Trump has shown himself to be made of a substance more stick-free than teflon, but in any case, this strategy, if you can call it that, worked in the primaries—or at least it failed to sink his campaign.
After Melania Trump was caught plagiarizing a portion of Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech, the Trump camp is sticking to its only script: deny, blame opponents and the media, and refuse to apologize. Early Tuesday morning de facto campaign manager Paul Mantafort blamed Hillary Clinton: “Once again, this is an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks to demean her and take her down.” Manafort also told CNN’s Phil Mattingly “These are common words,” which, sure, but when it comes to plagiarism it’s the order that counts. Chris Christie took a break from the unbearable sadness of being Chris Christie to go on the Today Show and downplay the plagiarism while basically also copping to it: “93 percent of the speech is completely different from Michelle Obama’s speech,” he said, seemingly admitting that seven percent was plagiarized. “They expressed some common thoughts.”
This is, in some ways, classic spin: The job of a flak in instances like these is to provide counternarratives. But the problem is that this is a cut-and-dry case: Anyone who watches the side-by-side video knows that Melania Trump and/or her speechwriter(s) lifted a portion of Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech, period. What the Trump campaign is doing now is inflaming a scandal that could swallow the next three days of the RNC.