US & Canada

US election: Republicans react to Melania 'distraction'

Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Passages from Mrs Trump's speech are strikingly similar to Mrs Obama's 2008 speech

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign is facing new scrutiny after his wife delivered a speech similar to one by Michelle Obama in 2008. What's the reaction been like in the party?

Some senior figures came to Melania Trump's defence.

"There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech," said Paul Manafort, Mr Trump's campaign manager.

"I mean, this is, once again, an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down,'' Mr Manafort said.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is slated to speak on Tuesday, told NBC's Today, "93 percent of the speech is completely different'' from the speech Mrs. Obama delivered, but added the two women "expressed some common thoughts".

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called the controversy a "distraction" and said he did not blame Mrs Trump.

He also said he would "probably" fire the speechwriter over the incident.

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Media captionDid Melania Trump's speech copy Michelle Obama's?

Shortly before delivering her speech Monday night, Mrs Trump told NBC anchor Matt Lauer she wrote most of her speech.

"I read once over it and that's all, because I wrote it, and with as little help as possible," she said.

It was unclear who was responsible for helping Mrs Trump write her remarks.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was fired in June in the wake of allegations that he grabbed a reporter, agreed that someone should be held accountable.

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Media captionWhat Republicans thought of Melania Trump's speech

"If the staff did not do their job properly, and didn't vet the speech properly based on the larger picture and narrative that she put together, then there should be accountability," he said. "No question."

Jeanne Seaver, a Republican delegate from Savannah, Georgia tells the BBC Mrs Trump "spoke not only from her heart, but from her soul" and that it did not matter that she may have lifted passages from Mrs Obama's 2008 remarks.

Georgia delegate John Bush tells the BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan "the bulk of the speech was a wonderful speech".

When asked if it bothered him that part of the speech may have been plagiarised, Mr Bush said "if there was one paragraph that was off, that's a shame, but it was a great speech".

Mississippi governor Haley Barbour told the Washington Post the controversy was a "nothingburger".

"If I took the 10 most significant things that happened last night, I would not include this in the list," he said.

Roger Stone, Donald Trump's longtime ally, also conceded someone should be fired over the speech, but said the plagiarism claims were not important.

"I just don't think the voters care," Stone said at a Politico event. "It's sloppy staff work and somebody should go."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Many Republicans called on the Trump campaign to fire someone over the controversy

Republican lawmakers also called on the Trump campaign to acknowledge the gaffe and move on.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito told CNN: "If there was a mistake there...we're better served and, Donald Trump's better served, to just admit it and move on".

Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy added Trump should apologise and "blame it on a speechwriter".

"If you don't acknowledge at least something's there, this ends up being not just a one, uh, one-hour story ... it's a convention story," Mr Duffy told CNN.

Sam Clovis, national co-chairman of the Donald Trump campaign, told MSNBC it was "probably an unfortunate oversight".

"I'm sure what happened is the person who was helping write this plugged something in there - probably an unfortunate oversight, and certainly Melania didn't have anything to do with it", he said.