Politics

Melania Trump Would Like You to Know the Capitol Riot Is No Excuse to Attack Her

Her bizarre official statement is grimly on brand.

Melania Trump stands outside the White House in a gray patterned peacoat.
Melania Trump at the White House in November. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After a five-day span that saw President Donald Trump incite his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol, subsequent calls for his impeachment, and his banning on several major social media platforms, his wife, first lady Melania Trump, has seen fit to weigh in. The main takeaways: She thinks the riots were bad (though … inspiring?) and that the nation should heal—but most of all, none of it is any excuse to criticize her.

Early this morning, Melania’s thoughts were published to the White House website in a strange, rambling official statement titled “Our Path Forward.” (This forum, a kind of first lady Medium.com, has previously hosted thoughts from Melania ranging from a bizarre account of her experience with COVID to a dressing-down of a former friend and staffer who published an unflattering memoir.) Despite the historic events of last week, it takes Melania some time to get to the point. After some preamble about COVID-19 and the Americans who have inspired Melania during these times, she turns her attention to a few in particular whom her “heart goes out to”: Ashli Babbitt, Benjamin Philips, Kevin Greeson, Rosanne Boyland, Brian Sicknick, and Howard Liebengood.

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“I am disappointed and disheartened with what happened last week,” Melania goes on after listing these names, still not having said what happened last week or to these people. They are, of course, the names of those who died following last week’s riot.* But Melania follows this lament with another, more well-articulated grievance: that she “find[s] it shameful that surrounding these tragic events there has been salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks, and false misleading accusations on me.”

Yes, the “attacks” on Melania last week were, according to Melania, one of the more outrageous results of the seizure of the Capitol. In case you were too busy focusing on the big-picture coup stuff to absorb said attacks: Melania might be annoyed that news outlets covered her chief of staff’s resignation, that the aide-cum-memoirist who wronged her a few months ago criticized Melania’s silence in an opinion piece, or that the press got wind that the first lady was overseeing a photo shoot of rugs while the mob violence broke out.

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Here one might note that we are nearly 200 words into a 623-word note and Melania has not yet mentioned her husband, whose claims that the presidential election was stolen were the reason for the riot in the first place, but it’s actually still a while before he comes up, which won’t be until 548 words in. Before she gets there, though, Melania condemns violence, which she notes is “never acceptable.” Still, perhaps wanting to show some appreciation for the rioters, she adds, “it is inspiring to see that so many have found a passion and enthusiasm in participating in an election.” It is in this same vein that Melania may have listed Ashli Babbitt’s name first earlier—best to give the most reverence to the insurrectionist who was shot by police and has been claimed as a martyr on the right over the others who died. Not exactly “We love you. You’re very special,” but not exactly not that.

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Overall, Melania proclaims, not altogether unlike our actual president-elect, that Americans ought to “focus on what unites us.” If she is at all sincere about this, maybe it’s notable that the first lady doesn’t hint in the post that the vote was stolen or that there will not be a transition of power. But her platitudes about “the true spirit of our country” and “the promise of our future” are also vague enough that she doesn’t plainly acknowledge that Trump lost the election, either. Maybe she’s being careful not to concede defeat, in typical Trumpian fashion. But it seems just as likely that, as long as she is left alone to do her rug photo shoots in peace, she doesn’t actually care.

Correction, Jan. 11, 2021: This piece originally misstated that all six people Melania Trump named died during the riot. Sicknick and Liebengood died after the riot.

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