First Lady Melania Trump is often unable to get through a public appearance without stumbling. Is it inexperience? Or is it the latent resistance of an unhappy president's wife?
The traditional role of first lady is first and foremost that of the mother of the nation, and along with that, consoler of the distraught of that nation. What, then, went through Melania Trump's head when, en route to the American southern border to visit solitary migrant children, she donned a jacket which had on the back the text "I really don't care, do u?"?
When Melania arrived in McAllen, Texas, the coat had been replaced by a white safari jacket. But it was already too late. It was no longer about her visit, only about that coat. Just like when, at the end of August, the first lady set out with her husband to hearten the victims of Hurricane Harvey. The stiletto heels of black snake leather that she thought fitting for her visit to this disaster area received more attention than her conversations with rescue workers.
No Hidden Message
"It's a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today's important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn't going to choose to focus on her wardrobe," Trump's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said to ABC. A futile statement, because the media and the internet had already broken out in a storm of speculation and criticism. The hashtag #Melaniaantoinette, after the queen who suggested people could eat brioche if there was no bread, was coined for how much the president's wife was out of touch. Others agonized over the why. Was Melania perhaps forced to wear the jacket to distract the attention of the press away from the fact that the White House does not have a single plan to reunite the 2,300 immigrant children with their parents? Was the text meant as reassurance for the hard core of Trump's supporters? Perhaps Melania was battling a marital fight?
It is not the first time that Melania Trump has sent a contradictory message, thus inviting speculation. Awkward is, like, really her thing. Her public performances are scarce. At official functions, she seems taut with tension. The expression of dull depression that fell over her professionally radiant face after a remark by her husband at his inauguration led to the hashtag #FreeMelania, as well as that time when she seemed to slap away Trump's outstretched hand. It is no secret that the reserved former model did not want to be first lady and that her marriage has known better times.
Was it coincidence or latent resistance that she wore a blouse with a "pussy bow" — a blouse with a bow tied at the neck — at the height of the commotion over Trump's "pussy tape"? And precisely why, as Trump's wife and, according to American media, against the advice of her staff, did she choose cyberbullying and rude behavior on the internet as her area of work? This spring, the president's wife did not show up in public for nearly a month after an unexpected hospitalization for "a benign kidney condition," without the White House issuing an explanation. #WhereisMelania, Twitter speculated.
On Sunday, the day that political outrage over Trump's directive to separate immigrant children from their parents came to boiling point, Melanie Trump issued, for the first time, a political statement via her spokeswoman. “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” the statement read.
Her tweet later in the week was less tactful. The Spanish royal couple visited the White House. In the middle of an international storm of outrage over the migrant children separated from their parents, FLOTUS tweeted: "Queen Letizia & I enjoyed tea & time together focusing on the ways we can positively impact children."
Melania's staff is less than half that of Michelle Obama’s at the end of Obama's presidency. But with the choice of the jacket, mistake or negligence seems impossible. The Daily Mail found out that it was a garment from fast-fashion chain Zara, priced at $39. It is unthinkable that Melania Trump, who is solely photographed in haute couture, just pulled something off the coat rack for a camera-infested visit to the epicenter of an explosive political debate.
According to her husband, that indeed was not the case. Trump tweeted that Melania had enough of what he calls the "Fake News Media." In light of the criticism the first lady receives for her interpretation of a job she did not want, it is possible that the president was right.