Andrew BEATTY

Donald Trump faced an embarrassing plagiarism scandal Tuesday that tarnished his wife Melania's prime-time speech to a Republican National Convention already roiled by an opening day rank-and-file revolt.

It was a rough start to the four-day political jamboree, which was designed to crown Trump as the presidential nominee and catapult the party toward November's elections.

With millions watching on TV at home, Melania Trump delivered a heartfelt defense of her husband and his bid to be the next president of the United States before thousands of rapt convention delegates. But unmistakable similarities in remarks about her guiding values and a speech given by Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic convention soon came to light.

A senior Trump communications adviser, Jason Miller, acknowledged in a statement that Melania Trump's team of writers "in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking."

Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chief, denied there was any "cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech" and the candidate himself came out in her defense.

"It was truly an honor to introduce my wife, Melania. Her speech and demeanor were absolutely incredible. Very proud!" he tweeted.

The kerfuffle came after a chaotic start to the Republican gathering in Cleveland, which erupted in jeers from Trump opponents determined to express their unease about the 70-year-old billionaire businessman.

"We deserve to be heard, this is the people's convention!" said Diana Shores, a delegate from Virginia, while pro-Trump delegates tried to drown out the rebels with shouts of "Shame! Shame!" On Tuesday, the convention holds a state-by-state roll call vote, with each delegation confirming the winner in their primary election.

Although a routine procedure, it too could be the scene of further disruptions by anti-Trump factions. Trump fans insist delegates must heed the will of the grassroots of the party and make him the Republican nominee without equivocation.

The real estate mogul won a thumping victory in a series of statewide party elections, garnering more than 13 million votes - the most of any Republican nominee ever.

Making a surprise cameo appearance at the gathering in Cleveland to introduce his wife, the bombastic tycoon showed confidence that belied the day's spasm of public division. "We're going to win so big" said Trump. "Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor to present the next First Lady of the United States."

First the lady

Trump's Slovenian-born wife Melania, until now only a minor presence in the campaign, stepped on to the stage in the role of chief advocate and character witness.

With all the allure of a former model and in a strong European accent, she made the case why Americans should entrust Trump with the presidency. "Donald is, and always has been, an amazing leader," said the 46-year-old. "Now, he will go to work for you."  "He does not give up," she said of her husband, portraying him as a loving father and successful businessman who would be a strong and compassionate president.

She also sought to put a more human face on a candidate many voters see as brash and egotistical. "Donald intends to represent all the people, not just some of the people. That includes Christians and Jews and Muslims. It includes Hispanics and African-Americans and Asians and the poor and the middle class."

Plagiarism

No sooner had the speech been delivered, though, than it was overshadowed by the plagiarism controversy.

In a passage that appeared to be lifted from Michelle Obama's speech eight years ago, Melania discussed her parents' influence on her. "My parents impressed on me the values: that you work hard for what you want in life. That your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise. That you treat people with respect. They taught me to show the values and morals in my daily life. That is the lesson that I continue to pass along to our son," Melania Trump said.–AFP

"And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

In her 2008 speech, Michelle Obama had said:

"And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them.

"And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children - and all children in this nation - to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."–AFP