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Melania Knauss Trump came to her role as America’s first lady as an enigma. No one knew how the former Slovenian model who became Donald J. Trump’s third wife would adapt to a role that Michelle Obama redefined.
Even when Melania Trump’s husband ignored the traditions of his predecessors, she at first it tried to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors after arriving in Washington from New York months after the president: hired staff, spoke about child care as a mother of a young son, and found causes to support while the attention he received was often for designer outfits that he wore in his public appearances.
But as the years go by their efforts lost momentum, harmed by a series of shows promoted by her husband and also by the public relations disasters that she caused and the hostility that she felt from the media. Like the president, he began to pay less attention to traditional courtesies: perhaps the most memorable episode of this disinterest was when it was broadcast an audio in which he said, in a rude way, that he could not stand the White House Christmas decorations.
In a state that White House officials called a surprise after the November 2020 election, the first lady joined her husband in insisting that he had actually won. But by the New Year she was already looking for a house in Florida and when a mob attacked the Capitol and the false accusations of the president were finally silenced, she was already emotionally very absent.
He did not contact the incoming first lady, Jill Biden, to coordinate transition matters, nor did he make any effort to offer her a tour of the White House, as outgoing first ladies are used to. In stead of, Melania Trump concentrated on packing up the White House even as her husband tried to stop time.
The Trumps arrived this Wednesday in Palm Beach (Florida), where they will reside when they leave their public positions.
After enduring four years of turmoil – reports of her husband’s infidelity, a kidney problem that required hospitalization, and never-proven rumors that she was not living in the White House – what was most memorable in the end is how different Melania Trump seemed from her husband and how much like him she turned out.
Last week, when the country was reeling from the Capitol unrest, Melania Trump used her platform in part for revenge. She regretted the gossip that had spread about her, which confused most of them, who did not understand what she was referring to. It turned out that he was referring to Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former collaborator who published an unflattering memoir about their relationship and who released recordings of their conversations.
Winston Wolkoff had written an opinion column denouncing Trump after the January 6 riot, an article hardly anyone had noticed until she drew attention to him. As first lady, Trump issued more statements on Winston Wolkoff than almost any other topic..
A spokeswoman for Melania Trump did not respond to questions Tuesday.
“I find it shameful that around these tragic events there have been lewd gossip, unjustified personal attacks and false and misleading accusations against me, by people who have an agenda and who seek to be relevant,” Melania Trump wrote in a published statement. on the official site of the White House.
On Monday, Melania Trump’s tone had changed in a farewell video. She promoted her exercise as first lady and the platform she created, Be Best, and once again asked the rest of the country to uphold the same ideals that her husband has ignored for four years.
“Use every opportunity to show consideration to other people,” Trump said. “I ask all Americans to be ambassadors for Be Best at every opportunity. May you focus on what unites us, may you rise above what divides us, may you always choose love over hate, peace over violence, and others over yourself. “
The first lady’s friends say that she is a better person than the country could perceive, that at times she tried – unsuccessfully – to be a moderating influence on her husband and that she was upset by how she handled the couple’s final months in the White House .
“Melania is and will continue to be the most popular of the Trumps,” Kellyanne Conway, the former adviser to the president, said in an interview. “He will use his platform for the good of others. As first lady she was fully engaged, but she was not overexposed. There is still curiosity and mystery around her ”.
Publicly, however, she has shown a side that critics found frustratingly cruel and, like her husband, dramatically self-indulgent.. In 2018, upon returning from a visit to a border town in Texas where she had an encounter with detained migrant children, Melania Trump made her most explicit fashion statement by wearing a jacket with a phrase stamped on the back: “I really don’t care. and you?”. Months later, Trump tried to justify her choice in an interview, only to say that she was “the most harassed person in the world” during a bug-ridden trip to Africa. His reputation never recovered from that episode. While at various points during her husband’s presidency, Melania Trump enjoyed higher popularity ratings than he did, these bursts of popularity never lasted long.
Melania and her controversial pronda: “I don’t really care, do you?”
“I think she never came out of her husband’s shadow for various reasons,” said Katherine Jellison, a history professor at Ohio University who studies first ladies. “The times he tried to define an identity more independent of him just didn’t seem to have staying power.”
She never felt comfortable in Washington
Those who know her said and it showed. He began the presidency fearful of the personal security risks involved, his friends said, and that was how he defined his relationship with the American people. Efforts to recruit his staff were initially tense; She briefly considered Kayleigh McEnany to be her spokesperson, but Melania Trump didn’t like her, government officials said at the time.
Instead of forging lasting relationships in Washington, Trump always He seemed to perceive his status as temporary and he only liked the move in so far as it made his teenage son Barron happyfriends of the family said.
“I think she was a reluctant first lady and that she did it for her husband,” society publicist R. Couri Hay, an acquaintance of Melania Trump in New York, said in an interview. After leaving Washington, they will see that it will be even less visible and less available. “
At the end, If not remembered for her physical and emotional distance, Melania Trump’s most enduring contributions may have been the cosmetic changes she oversaw in the White House..
The updates were to make life in the presidential residence more functional for the first family and their guests, though not for visitors from the public: one of their decisions was to record the White House bowling balls with the phrase: “The President’s house ”.
In a message posted on the White House website Monday, Melania Trump said that during her time at the White House, she ordered an elevator restoration, wallpaper repair in the family dining room, and in the midst of the pandemic , the remodeling of the Garden of Roses.
Melania Trump will continue to employ a White House counselor, Marcia Lee Kelly, to assist her in the post-presidency, but for now, she is focused on finding a suitable place to settle in the Jupiter, Florida and Palm Beach area, according to people with knowledge of the search. AND his participation with the presidency has not ended: he is expected to collaborate with the design of Trump’s presidential library, which the president has described as a job for his wife and their eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump.
But on Wednesday, leaving Washington, Melania Trump risks being remembered as the first lady who arrived late to Washington and left prematurely, in every way.