Accusations of plagiarism in a speech by Donald Trump's wife stole the spotlight at the Republican convention on Tuesday just when the party was hoping to focus on the formal anointing of her businessman husband as its White House nominee.
Melania Trump's address to the convention in Cleveland on Monday night contained a section that was strikingly similar to words delivered at the Democratic convention in 2008 by the woman she hopes to succeed as U.S. first lady, Michelle Obama.
As critics accused her of lifting passages from that speech, a Trump campaign official suggested the similarity was the result of an error by Melania Trump's speech writers. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said he would probably fire the writer if that were the case.
The controversy raised questions about the Trump campaign's attention to detail as he squares off against the larger, more organized operation of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and seeks to win the job of president on Nov. 8.
Melania Trump's speech followed rowdy scenes on the floor of the convention on Monday, the first day of the gathering, when Trump opponents staged a failed attempt to force a vote opposing his candidacy.
Trump, a real estate developer and former reality TV star who has never held elective office, is trailing Clinton in many polls after a bruising Republican primary season. The party is trying to turn attention to its formal declaration on Tuesday night of Trump as its presidential nominee.
Trump ally Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, sought to defend Melania Trump by pointing to the parts of the speech that were not controversial.
Asked on NBC's Today show if as a former prosecutor he could make a case for plagiarism from the speech, he said, "No, not when 93 percent of the speech is completely different from Michelle Obama's speech, and they express common thoughts."
"I think after tonight we won't be talking about this, we'll move on to whatever comes up tonight," he said.
A small section of Melania Trump's roughly 15-minute address closely resembled a part of Michelle Obama's speech eight years ago in support of Barack Obama, who was then campaigning for president.
Melania Trump, a Slovenian-born jewelry designer and former model, talked about passing on to the next generation the value of hard work that she inherited from her parents and said "the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."
Her words closely echoed those of the Michelle Obama in 2008.
Before Monday's speech, Melania Trump told NBC in remarks that were aired on several networks: "I wrote it... with as little help as possible."
Trump himself made no mention of the accusations about plagiarism in a Twitter post early on Tuesday, saying simply: "It was truly an honor to introduce my wife, Melania Trump last night. Her speech and demeanor were absolutely incredible. Very proud!"
Trump's campaign has been marked by frequent controversy over his rhetoric on immigration and trade that has alarmed many in the Republican establishment.
Party officials are hoping to use the convention to smooth out some of his rough edges and present him to the country as a job creator and a strong hand to combat national security threats and violent crime at home.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the top U.S. elected Republican, was to formally put Trump's name forward later on Tuesday to be the party's nominee. The candidate was to receive the blessing on stage of other senior Republicans, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Both Ryan and McConnell need Trump to do well in the November election as they seek to preserve Republican majorities in the U.S. House and Senate.
The theme of Tuesday's convention event was entitled "Make America Work Again," and speakers were to take aim at Obama's record on the economy.
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort took a swipe at Clinton, saying there was a "political tint" to the fuss over the Melania Trump speech.
"It's just another example, as far as we're concerned, that when Hillary Clinton is threatened by a female, the first thing she tries to do is destroy the person," Manafort told reporters.
The Clinton campaign said it had nothing to do with unearthing the similarities in the speeches.
"Nice try, not true," Jennifer Palmieri, the campaign's communication director, wrote on Twitter, adding that blaming Clinton was not the answer for every "Trump campaign problem."
The similarities in the passages of the Melania Trump and Michelle Obama speeches were quickly mocked on Twitter, with users playfully attributing well-known quotes and song lyrics to Melania Trump using the hashtag #FamousMelaniaTrumpQuotes.
The tag was shared roughly 20 times per second on the social media site on Tuesday morning, according to social media analytics firm Zoomph.
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