CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday subjected Donald Trump’s campaign manager to an extended grilling for steadfastly denying that part of Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention was plagiarized.
“Some of those words came from Michelle Obama’s speech in 2008,” Cuomo told Paul Manafort, who said on Tuesday that Trump’s wife simply used “common words” in her speech. “You have every kind of expert and anybody with eyes who sees that, you keep ignoring it. I don’t understand why. I don’t understand why you keep making this an issue.”
“Because it is a speech that she gave, talking about her feelings. She is not a candidate for office,” Manafort replied, pivoting to discuss how Donald Trump won the Republican presidential nomination despite “all the conventional wisdom.
“That’s the story,” he insisted.
Cuomo wasn’t having it.
“You’re distracting from the story line by refusing to acknowledge something that’s true, and it plays into two issues,” he said. Cuomo argued that the campaign’s refusal to admit that part of the speech was plagiarized undercut their message that Hillary Clinton was too untrustworthy to serve as president, and spoke to the campaign’s pattern of denial when faced with any conflict.
“When faced with something that you did wrong, you just deny it, no matter whether it is true or not,” Cuomo said. “Whether it is the man who has a developmental disability who works for The New York Times, and Donald Trump mocks him and says, ‘No, I didn’t.’ Whether it is a star that represents the star of David, and you say, ‘No, it is a sheriff’s star.’ There is a pattern, whether it is Baron, John Miller, really Donald Trump. There is a pattern of denying the obvious. What happens when you’re running the government of the United States and you don’t want to deal with what happens then? That’s the concern.”
Cuomo was referring to Trump saying he was unaware a Times reporter had a disability before mocking his physical appearance; insisting an image he retweeted of Hillary Clinton next to a six-pointed star on top of a pile of cash was not the Star of David; and denying pretending to be his own spokesperson under the aliases John Barron and John Miller even though he once admitted to doing so in court.
Manafort countered that the perception of these incidents was “all in the eye of the beholder,” blaming the media for devoting insufficient coverage to the successes of the Trump campaign.
“You’ve been pointing out things that aren’t true, this will be a problem for the Trump campaign, you’ve been wrong,” he said. “Consistently. The American people disagree with your perceptions of all the things you just said.”
Their contentious back-and-forth continued for some seven minutes, with Cuomo saying he just wanted the campaign to acknowledge “the truth” and a smiling Manafort telling him to “move on.”
“I can’t move on,” Cuomo said. “Because you keep lying about it, so I can’t move on from it.”
“Chris, I’m not lying about anything,” Manafort said.
“What is true: Did the language, did a portion of the language of that speech come from Michelle Obama’s speech, yes or no?”
“As far as we’re concerned, there are similar words that were used,” Manafort said. “We’ve said that. But the feelings of those words, and the commonality of those words do not create a situation which we feel we have to agree with you. You want to have that opinion, fine.”
“It is not an opinion. That’s the problem,” Cuomo replied.