First lady Melania Trump, greets other volunteers at the Red Cross in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, as she pitches in to assemble military comfort kits that are provided to members of the military as they prepare for deployment. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
On Tuesday I wrote about how Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called out the media for their unhinged criticisms of the Christmas decorations First Lady Melania Trump had picked out for the White House’s “Spirit of America” theme.
While Rubio’s slam of the media revolved around a larger point about how such petty critiques about the First Lady and her holiday fashion and decor choices fueled the public’s distrust and disdain for journalists all the more, I wanted to take their slights of Mrs. Trump in a different direction because it’s something that has bothered me for a long time.
Like most people, I don’t know Melania Trump beyond what I see in media reports and on her social media feeds. While in news articles you often have to read between the lines and beyond the spin to get the full story, her Twitter and Instagram pages are places you can get a glimpse of what I have come to believe is the person she really is: Someone who is warm and caring and doing the best she can under the harsh public scrutiny and unflattering media glare that is political life.
My impression of Trump is that while she is well-accustomed to life in the public eye thanks to her days as a professional model and then as Donald Trump’s glamorous wife, being the First Lady of the United States is not a role she ever expected nor wanted to be in. But she’s adjusted with the help of aides and advisers and has come into her own over the years even while being in the shadow of her powerful husband, which is the life of all first ladies to varying extents.
Former First Lady and twice failed candidate for president Hillary Clinton admittedly took on a “co-president” role while her husband Bill presided over the country. Laura Bush, a former librarian, took a more subtle approach to being First Lady, choosing not to compete with her husband for the spotlight, instead focusing on her priorities which were education reform, reading, and advocating for women in oppressed countries.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama was a mixture of the two, mostly taking a low-key role during her husband’s first term while becoming more outspoken in the second.
While some of the criticisms these first ladies faced from political foes in and outside of the media were indeed cruel and unfair, when they did happen journalists rushed to defend both Clinton and Obama from them in many instances. On the other hand, they often left Laura Bush out to dry. Why? Because she was a Republican and, to some of the meaner vipers on the left and in newsrooms, that meant she was voluntarily subjecting herself to being a victim of the patriarchy or whatever.
Melania Trump is not particularly outspoken, except when it comes to defending her son. And that’s okay. Not every woman in her role as first lady has to be EveryWoman and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and all that.
Because Mrs. Trump is not that “I am woman, hear me roar” type of first lady, and because she’s the wife of the notorious and evil Orange Man in the White House, she has been subjected to particularly vicious treatment from the media, most recently in the form of a new unauthorized biography of her that provides alleged details about her personal life in the White House that, if true, are really nobody’s business but her’s and her husband’s.
I can’t imagine the press ever eagerly and hungrily diving into the personal life of a Democratic first lady except in the instances where they have no choice (like they did with Hillary thanks to Bill Clinton’s penchant for cheating on her while he was president). But they’ve done so with Mrs. Trump with a vengeance, almost gleefully reporting unconfirmed stories about how Melania Trump and Donald Trump allegedly keep separate bedrooms in the White House.
Why is this treated as a story worthy of reporting by supposedly reputable news outlets like CNN? Reporting on her priorities as first lady, her travels, and her public appearances with the president are stories you’d expect and demand the press focus on and even scrutinize. But gossipy snippets about something so personal as alleged sleeping arrangements? I’m sorry, but that’s just beyond the pale and is frankly the type of “news” that should be off limits for reporting, at least while both of them are still in public office.
It’s demeaning and insulting and crosses the boundaries of basic dignity and respect that should be given to all first ladies on personal issues of this nature, regardless of party.
If this story is true, after she’s out of the public office it may be something Melania Trump chooses to talk about with a cable news outlet or in an authorized biography. Or maybe not at all. In the meantime, the press should try really hard to do just two things:
1) Lay off the cheap shots and insults leveled at her simply because they despise her husband and
2) Do their danged jobs and leave her personal life alone.
Because not doing either is a really, really bad look.
— Based in North Carolina, Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 16+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. –