Over the past week, speculation about Melania Trump’s whereabouts has reached a fever pitch among DC media types. The first lady, who was hospitalized last month to undergo a kidney procedure, was spotted in the White House by a CNBC reporter two weeks ago and even attended an official White House event honoring Gold Star families on Monday.
But that hasn’t stopped members of the media from freaking out about the number of public events on her schedule and even spreading wild rumors about a sinister plot they think may be afoot.
In a tweet storm on Wednesday morning, Donald Trump chastised members of the media for spreading false information about his wife.
The Fake News Media has been so unfair, and vicious, to my wife and our great First Lady, Melania. During her recovery from surgery they reported everything from near death, to facelift, to left the W.H. (and me) for N.Y. or Virginia, to abuse. All Fake, she is doing really well!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2018
…Four reporters spotted Melania in the White House last week walking merrily along to a meeting. They never reported the sighting because it would hurt the sick narrative that she was living in a different part of the world, was really ill, or whatever. Fake News is really bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2018
Here’s the headline from a writeup of the tweets in The New York Times: “Trump Defends Wife, Melania, and Spreads Conspiracies About Her in the Process.” Yes, that’s the actual headline. Here’s the lead:
President Trump, who has long reveled in conspiracy theories, spent at least part of Wednesday morning lashing out at the news media about its coverage of the first lady, Melania Trump, while in the process repeating the kind of unfounded rumors about his wife that would normally attract legal action from him and his notoriously litigious family.
In an article that lacks all self awareness, the Times is intimating that POTUS is at fault, or at least partially to blame, for the rumors swirling about Melania Trump. But the truth is that the rumors started with the press, who should accept blame for lighting the match and fanning the flames on this media-generated conspiracy theory.
CNN’s Brian Stelter claimed that Trump was being totally paranoid and conflating random mouth-breathers on the Internet with Reliable Sources.
Trump is conflating random Twitter commenters with "the media" here. A common tactic of bad faith critics. But disappointing to see POTUS do it. pic.twitter.com/7tWObMmUdD
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 6, 2018
Except that Stelter is completely wrong. Media have in fact been spreading rumors about the First Lady’s whereabouts for weeks. Here are eight times reporters and news outlets, including Stelter himself, spread conspiracy theories about Melania.
1. The New York Times Implies Timing Of Melania’s Kidney Surgery Is Suspect
On Monday, FLOTUS appeared at a reception to honor those whose family members lost their lives in military service to this country. Her appearance was even recorded, and a reporter for The Daily Caller tweeted the footage.
Here’s the Times writeup of her appearance, which is headlined “Melania Trump Returns to the Public Eye (Sort Of).”
On the 25th day of a much-discussed absence from the public eye, the first lady re-emerged.
Weeks ago, Melania Trump essentially vanished from view after undergoing what her office described as a successful treatment of a benign kidney condition. On Monday, she reappeared on the president’s schedule and joined him at a reception for military families.
But Mrs. Trump’s scheduled appearance was not open to the press, and was unlikely to calm rampant speculation about why she has not been seen in public in over three weeks. It is an unusual stretch for one of the most visible women in the world and, according to historians, it is the longest break anyone has taken from the role in modern memory.
So was she or wasn’t she at the event? Because if she was, this “sort of” phrasing is nonsense. The article goes on to say the timing of Melania’s kidney surgery is suspicious, implying that maybe the facts of her operation are more nefarious than what’s being stated publicly.
Mrs. Trump’s absence came abruptly, and at a time when she seemed to be getting used to standing firmly in the spotlight. She was admitted to the hospital just days after the kickoff of Be Best, her official platform. In the weeks before, the first lady had organized a state dinner with France and saw her poll numbers rising. Then she vanished — not an easy feat for someone whose every public move has been dissected on social media.
2. The Root Says Melania Body Double, Not Actual First Lady, Was At Monday’s Event
“Wait, Was That a Melania Trump Look-Alike?” The Root’s Stephen A. Crocket Jr. asks. He even put her name in the article in scare quotes.
A woman with the facial structure and permanent scowl worn by first lady Melania Trump made an appearance Monday evening with her husband and legal captor, Donald Trump.
The woman who answered to the name Melania was alongside the president during a ceremony to honor Gold Star families. While many, including this writer, believe that the real Melania had enough of the president’s blowhard, deceitful tactics and dug a tunnel out of her private bedroom to escape, this was the first public appearance for ‘Melania’ in 24 days.
3. Rolling Stone Writer Suggests Melania’s Absence Due To Abuse
Jamil Smith tweeted this gem on Sunday.
I wish that I didn’t suspect that the prolonged, poorly explained public absence of Melania Trump could be about concealing abuse. I wish that it was a ludicrous prospect. I wish that the @POTUS wasn’t a man with a history of abusing women, including those to whom he is married.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) June 3, 2018
Domestic abuse is a serious problem that unfortunately many women face in the United States. Nearly three women in the United States are killed every day by their partners, according to some estimates. Accusations of domestic abuse need to be taken seriously by all. They should not be casually thrown about by people who don’t know Melania personally, in an effort to smear her husband.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, the National Domestic Abuse Hotline has resources that can help.
4. That Time Politico Blamed The White House For Stoking Conspiracy Theories And Then Proceeded To Do Just That
Here are the first few paragraphs from Annie Karini’s article in Politico. Note that the bit about Melania’s kidney condition is in scare quotes.
She’s left the White House and moved back to New York City.
She’s cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.
She’s holed up with the Obamas, working on a tell-all book about her husband — unless she had a secret nip and tuck, in which case she’s just healing.
During the two weeks since Melania Trump returned to the White House following what was described as a relatively minor surgery — a period during which she has been absent from ceremonial events like a Memorial Day wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery — conspiracy theories have flooded in to fill the void of information about the first lady’s health, and whereabouts.
The White House has released almost no information about Trump’s condition since May 14, when her spokeswoman said the first lady was undergoing a routine embolization procedure at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center ‘to treat a benign kidney condition.’
5. A HuffPo Writer Wondered Aloud If She Had A Breakdown Or Plastic Surgery
Where is @FLOTUS? And why was she in the hospital so long? Is she sick? Did she have a breakdown? Did @POTUS force her to get plastic surgery? Was the whole thing a scam? This is not a joke. These are legit Q’s abt America’s First Lady that remain unanswered. #Melania #Trump
— Andy Ostroy (@AndyOstroy) May 31, 2018
AMERICA NEEDS ANSWERS!
6. Senior Editor For The Atlantic Implies Trump Punched Her
David Frum posed an elaborate hypothetical question about whether President Trump could legally get away with punching his wife and asking the Secret Service to cover it up, right at the apex of the “WHERE’S MELANIA” hysteria.
Suppose President Trump punched the First Lady in the White House (federal property = federal jurisdiction), then ordered the Secret Service to conceal the assault. POTUS has Article II authority over Secret Service. Is that obstruction? Under Sekulow/Dowd, apparently NO
— David Frum (@davidfrum) June 2, 2018
7. That Time Stelter Couldn’t Count
Three days earlier, Stelter claimed in his e-mail newsletter that the first lady had been “out of sight” for 24 days straight, even though a CNBC reporter had seen her walking around in the West Wing with some of her staffers mid-May.
It’s not just the countdown calendar, but the insistence in this writeup that Melania appearing at an event wasn’t good enough to prove that she’s still alive or whatever else Stelter is suggesting befell the first lady, simply because reporters weren’t invited.
8. Media Analyst Suggests Melania Can’t Tweet About Her Health By Herself
CNN devoted a whole segment to the first lady, in which David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun implied that Melania Trump’s Twitter account was being “guided” by someone other than the first lady after a tweet went out from her account poking fun at the media for obsessing about her. Watch.
“That doesn’t seem like her,” Zurawik said, after suggesting that she did not have control of her own Twitter account.
In the same segment, Stelter says there are a lot of unanswered “questions” about Melania’s absence from the public eye and stay at Walter Reed — implying there was something suspect about her medical condition.
Members of the media have run wild with conspiracy theories about Melania. The least they could do is own up to it.