The 2016 Republican National Convention is a wrap, but many of the most noteworthy moments from the week will stay with us — in some cases, for much longer than we’d like.
Here were the biggest head-scratchers from Cleveland over the past four days.
1. When Trump’s veterans’ adviser insisted Hillary Clinton should be “shot for treason.”
GOP conventioneers weren’t subtle this year — many carried signs reading “Hillary for Prison” (and worse) — and declaring her “guilty” variously over her email scandal and her handling of the deadly attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
But convention delegate and New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro — a top Trump adviser on veterans’ issues — ratcheted up the rhetoric with a deadly twist. In a radio interview from Cleveland, Baldasaro insisted that “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.” He doubled down on that sentiment in an interview with the Daily Beast, saying that “anyone that commits treason should be shot; I believe Hillary Clinton committed treason.” Baldasaro, in Trumpian fashion, then lied to the Military Times, insisting, “I never said she should be shot.” The Secret Service is reportedly now investigating.
2. When Laura Ingraham finished her speech with a Nazi salute.
Ingraham finished her fiery speech Wednesday night with a sickening flourish. She turned to a giant image of Donald Trump, waving on the Jumbotron above her. But instead of waving back, she gave Trump an unmistakable Nazi salute.
3. When Melania Trump got busted plagiarizing Michelle Obama speech and Trumpkins tried to spin their way out of it by citing My Little Pony.
Melania Trump’s convention speech stole language — ironically, about the importance of hard work — directly from the 2008 convention speech Michelle Obama had delivered to help elect Trump nemesis Barack Obama as president.
As you can see in the video side-by-side of the two speeches below, the plagiarism is undeniable. But that didn’t stop the Trump campaign and its surrogates from trying to gaslight America into believing there’s nothing to see here.
Campaign honcho Paul Manafort said it wasn’t plagiarism because it didn’t feel like plagiarism: “Certainly, there’s no feeling on her part that she did it. What she did was use words that are common words.” Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said Republicans owned the sentiment, and the words were up for grabs: “These are values ― Republican values, by the way ― of hard work, determination, family values, dedication and respect, and that’s Melania Trump. This concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd.” Trump fixer and New Jersey governor Chris Christie tried to turn the speech into a math problem: “Ninety-three percent of the speech is completely different from Michelle Obama’s speech,” he offered.
Then RNC strategist Sean Spicer turned up the weird by invoking a cartoon horse: “Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony said, ‘This is your dream — anything you can do in your dreams, you can do now,'” Spicer said. “If we want to take a bunch of phrases and run them through Google and see who else has said them, I could come up with a list in five minutes.”
After all that, the Trump campaign finally came clean: Meredith McIver, a longtime Trump ghostwriter, fell on her pen, taking blame for the borrowed language, while perhaps doing the campaign more damage by admitting that Michelle Obama is a figure Melania “has always liked” and is someone who has “inspired her.”
4. When Joni Ernst spoke to an emptying arena of fleeing delegates.
Swing state Sen. Joni Ernst — a rising star in the GOP ranks, and an Iowan famous for her experience castrating hogs — was supposed to be a prime-time speaker on opening night. But after retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (a rumored also-ran from Trump’s veepstakes) prattled on — and on and on, egging on a crowd calling to “Lock her up!” — Ernst got boxed out of her national spotlight, and her audience abandoned her. Ernst gamely delivered her speech to a loyal Iowa delegation and a Quicken Loans Arena emptying like it was the fourth quarter of a Cavs blowout and they didn’t want to get stuck in traffic. She finished to scattered applause.
5. When Chris Christie turned the convention hall into a kangaroo court.
Not known for his call-and-response speaking style, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie led the GOP crowd in a mock trial of Hillary Clinton in which he’d call out an alleged offense, asking, “Is Hillary Clinton guilty or not guilty?” and the frenzied delegates would shout back “Guilty!”
The unethical stunt by a man who was once a U.S. Attorney ought to disqualify Christie for a post as Trump’s attorney general — but, well, c’mon, this is Trump we’re talking about.
6. When Ted Cruz kicked off his 2020 campaign on Donald Trump’s stage.
There are times it pays to be politically friendless. Wednesday night this characteristic gave Ted Cruz the freedom to troll the Republican nominee on the party’s biggest stage. Cruz — fresh off a bruising campaign in which Trump insulted his wife and accused his father of being a part of Lee Harvey Oswald’s plot to assassinate JFK — accepted Trump’s invitation to speak. But Cruz not only declined to endorse Trump, he exhorted the national television audience to reject the politics of hate and to “vote your conscience.” Cruz seemed to relish the boos of the conventioneers, and hours later sent out an email to his campaign list seeking donations for his political war chest — presumably being restocked for a 2020 run against Hillary Clinton.
7. When Rudy Giuliani kept shouting “AMERICA!!!!”
The former mayor of New York has no chill. There was Rudy Giuliani, up on stage, ranting like your drunk uncle after a bottle too many, denying racism, spittle flying, and hitting “AMERICA” way too hard with every utterance.
8. When Chachi and that guy from Duck Dynasty showed up.
Trump’s RNC had a lot going on, but star power wasn’t its greatest asset. Among the D-listers and Joe the Plumber types who graced the stage in Cleveland were Happy Days actor Scott Baio and Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson. Because sure. Why not.
9. When Trump came onstage to “We Are the Champions.”
Trump made a surprise appearance on night one, appearing backlit through fog to the strains of “We Are the Champions.” Forget for a second that his use of the Queen anthem was unauthorized and over the band’s protest. Does Trump know nothing of Freddie Mercury? An Indian with Persian roots (Mercury was a Parsee, descended from followers of the ancient Zorastrian religion) who left political unrest on the East African island of Zanzibar, emigrated to England, lived the flamboyant life of a queer rock star, and died at 45 of HIV/AIDS? Mercury’s life stands as a giant middle-fingered monument to everything the wall-building, immigrant-deporting, America-Firsting Trump believes in.
10. When Ben Carson suggested Hillary Clinton is a secret Satanist.
In one of the most bizarre guilt-by-association games in recent memory, Dr. Ben Carson intimated that Clinton is a Satanist because she a) once studied Saul Alinsky, who b) wrote Rules for Radicals, and c) playfully referred to Lucifer as the “first Radical.” Carson strung that all together to ask: “Are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer?”
11. When the master of ceremony blocked a roll-call vote that could have threatened Trump’s nomination, by walking off-stage.
The dead enders of the Never Trump movement had one last trick up their sleeves. They wanted a roll-call vote on the rules that bound delegates to specific candidates — an attempt to create chaos out of which a nominee other than Trump might emerge. But rather than follow parliamentary procedure, deputy convention chair Rep. Steve Womack just abandoned the podium at center stage. “We are now in uncharted territory,” Sen. Mike Lee told C-SPAN cameras. “I have never seen the chair abandoned like that. They vacated the stage entirely.” (Womack later reemerged to announce key states requesting the roll-call vote had abandoned the effort and the rules were deemed passed by a voice vote.)
12. When Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination.
His speech was pretty standard Trumpian fare, full of fear-mongering and authoritarianism — complete with a little creepiness. But just let it all soak in for a minute: Donald Trump. Republican nominee. For president of the United States.