Republican Convention 2016

Cleveland Crowd Blames Donald Trump for Melania Speech Scandal

"It's just like how Trump's campaign is going in general."


Dennis Van Tine/LFI/Photoshot/Newscom

"I support Melania! Get your 'I support Melania' buttons here!" a street vendor named John shouted as he strode down the main corridor outside the Republican National Convention. The enterprising button peddler had made this batch last night, after news broke that a portion of Melania Trump's convention speech almost directly mirrored an earlier speech from Michelle Obama. "I think they'll be a real big hit," he says, "but we'll see." 

On the MSNBC jumbo-screen that towered mid-street, clips of Trump's and Obama's speeches played—interspersed with the punditocracy hashing out every possible angle on the scandal—for a gawking crowd of convention lurkers, some of whom were just hearing the plagiarism allegations for the first time. 

"I thought she did great," says Nancy Drusky, who's from Cleveland. "I thought at first she was going to be a bimbo, but she did wonderful. I didn't hear anything [about plagiarism] until just now."

Drusky and her companion, Kevin Novotny, say they aren't fans of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. They rode their bikes downtown today just to check out the spectacle. The same goes for Cleveland residents Kathy Brown and Maura Nash. "We're not Republicans but we came here to see what it's all about," says Brown. 

On Melania's speech, they note that the story is "everywhere," which Nash thinks is justified. "If they stole from another speech, it should be reported on. Plus, how stupid can you be? I mean, how many millions of people are watching this?" 

Nash thinks pinning it on the speechwriter is pretty lame: "You're responsible for the people you hire. Come on!" 

"But it's so Trump," Brown chimes in, "because he doesn't care. He doesn't care what people think, he's not gonna care about this. So why are [the media] wasting their time on it?" 

Todd Kistner, from Canton, Ohio, also thinks the speech debacle is typical of Donald Trump. Kistner, a political independent who's not a fan of either Trump or Clinton, says he has been looking into Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson but is also looking at Green Party candidate Jill Stein. 

As for Melania's speech, "they should have vetted that speech really well and they didn't," says Kistner. "It's just like how Trump's campaign's is going in general: 'play it by ear, whatever's hot today that's what I'll talk about.' He just hasn't talked about the issues, or given us any solutions to our problems."