Give Donald Trump this much: For someone so uniquely terrible, so sui generis, so without precedent in American political life, he has done an impressive job of ensuring that his wife and eldest children are almost as dreadful as he is. Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka Trump have all been happily supporting their racist and authoritarian father all campaign, but Melania Trump has generally kept quiet, uttering very few words about her husband, and even fewer words that she didn’t plagiarize from Michelle Obama. But on Monday night, Melania gave a long interview to a friendly Anderson Cooper on CNN, the network Trump has spent much of the past several weeks bashing. Neither politically effective nor remotely believable, Melania only proved in the interview that she enjoys engaging in the same conspiracymongering as her husband does.
Cooper’s interview was a microcosm of what has been so gruesome about this campaign, from the blatant lying and nonsense uttered by Trump and his surrogates, to the softball questions lobbed by the press. After significantly toughening his own journalism as the campaign progressed, and following a fine job co-moderating the second debate, Cooper struck out on Monday. He began by sympathetically asking Melania how she was doing, which seems like a second-order consideration, compared with, say, how the numerous women who claim to have been groped or abused by Trump are doing. The next question was also a softball: Did Melania ever imagine how tough the campaign would be last June, when Trump announced his candidacy?
When Cooper eventually got to the already infamous Access Hollywood tape and the numerous accusations against Trump, Melania did her best to imitate her husband’s grotesque style. Rather than merely say that she believed her husband, she blamed the media and the Clinton campaign, portraying Trump’s accusers and the release of the tape as part of some grand scheme. She then implied that it was unfair that the mic was on when Trump bragged about sexual assault, and blamed Billy Bush, who she says “egged on” her husband. Cooper, astonishingly, chose not to follow up on this assertion.
It dragged on pointlessly from there. Melania wondered why the media wasn’t looking into the backgrounds of the various accusers, murmured about the dark and nebulous forces who wanted to damage the campaign, scolded the “left-wing media,” and even dropped in a reference to Benghazi. When asked whether the Clinton campaign and the press were working together, she responded, “Yes, of course.” Cooper never really pushed her, instead seeming more sympathetic than prosecutorial. Poor Melania.
The most bizarre part of the interview occurred when Melania argued that not only did Trump never grope anyone, but, in fact, women regularly come up to Trump and give him their phone numbers. Sometimes, she claimed, they even do so in front of her. This is classically Trumpian: The candidate is fond of saying that the proof he isn’t a groper is that there are women who exist who he has not groped. Also, women love him. Rather than prod Melania, Cooper asked how she would spend her time as first lady. (This at least did elicit a hilarious answer: She wants her portfolio to include combating negativity on social media.)
The giant irony of the past several weeks of the Trump campaign, as the candidate spends his time ranting about rigging (“I see it,” Melania said) and media bias, is that it was a fawning and credulous press that helped land Trump where he is, and ensured his soul-killing ubiquity in all of our lives. I turned off CNN when Corey Lewandowski appeared on screen, presumably to offer his opinion of the interview.
So what did I learn from this evening’s cable news event? Melania has been less ubiquitous than her husband, Ivanka, and the boys over the past 18 months, and thus seems somehow less wretched than they do. But don’t be fooled: This same woman, in a Fox News interview airing Tuesday, states that, while reporting on accusations against Trump can only occur in the context of a media conspiracy, it is fair game to look into accusations against Bill Clinton because the Clintons “are asking for it” and “started” it. Her husband must be proud.