There’s a meme going around that purports to show First Lady Melania Trump laughing and enjoying life on the inauguration stage Friday behind her husband, President Donald Trump, until he turns and speaks to her, at which point she is immediately crestfallen and sad. The Sun called it an “awkward moment” in which Melania couldn’t “keep up appearances.” The Inquisitr asks breathlessly, “What did she hear?” It’s turned into a hashtag (of course): #FreeMelania.
Look, I’m happy to allow for the possibility of a certain (even a large) amount of psychodrama in the Melania and Donald Trump relationship, but if you watch the tape, with sound and context, I think they’re getting a raw deal on the interpretation of this viral clip, often shown in GIF form without any audio.
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) January 23, 2017
I hate to get all Zapruder on this, but I’ll try to keep it short. Snopes has two versions of the Inauguration Day video. The moment in question happens just as Rabbi Marvin Hier finishes up a prayer and the Rev. Franklin Graham takes the podium. Observe Melania’s face during the rabbi’s prayer, as you’ll need this information for comparison later. This is her fierce prayer face.
The smile moment comes as Graham says, “Mr. President, in the Bible, rain is a sign of God’s blessing. And it started to rain, Mr. President, when you came to the platform.”
Donald Trump turns to Melania and his family standing behind him and seems to smile. Melania smiles, too, and Graham continues. Melania’s face goes from smiling to frowning quickly, during the middle of this sentence:
“And it’s my prayer that God will bless you, your family, your administration, and may He bless America.” (Starts at 2:52:05 below.)
Now, what do you do when you’re in a formal setting and a speaker says, “it’s my prayer that God will bless you?” You get right, bow your head quickly, and get in prayer mode. Donald Trump seems also to recognize this and turns his attention quickly back to Graham and the prayer. It was a bit of a false start on the prayer, so not everyone has his or her prayer face on immediately, but Ivanka also gets more serious quickly and bows her head slightly.
Snopes provides another feed from the inauguration that shows Barron, their 10-year-old son, shifting and fidgeting a bit behind his father as the prayer begins. It’s possible Donald turned around and admonished Barron or gave Melania that look that passes between parents at a formal event where a 10-year-old’s cooperation is paramount. In this scenario, Melania’s face would be a combination of prayer face and “the look” from mom. (Starts at 1:21:00 below.)
It does not surprise me that Melania’s prayer face and/or mom face would be more fierce than average, leading to other interpretations. I suppose it’s possible Donald turned around and said something positively awful to her that made her soul crumble inside her. In which case, why is everyone within earshot unfazed by it? And, why does Ivanka also bow her head and get more serious after the “rain” line?
Snopes concludes, “Although the video clip is authentic, claims that it captures Donald Trump speaking harshly to Melania are merely conjecture.”
Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and go with the easiest explanation. She bowed her head to pray or was slightly stressed about keeping the family in line during this very serious ceremony, all of which require a serious face. Of all the things to fault the Trumps for, this ain’t it.