By Nia Anthony
Elm Staff Writer
Between the pressures of being the wife to the most influential person in the United States and creating a personal legacy within the White House, being first lady of the U.S. is surely not an easy feat. It’s a fulltime job, including duties that go beyond merely supporting the president.
Historically, first ladies are remembered for their specific philanthropic agendas. For the past four years, Melania Trump has worked on her initiative, BE BEST, which aims to tackle bullying and encourage children to be self-aware of their actions.
According to the official BE BEST website, “The mission of BE BEST is to focus on some of the major issues facing children today, with the goal of encouraging children to BE BEST in their individual paths, while also teaching them the importance of social, emotional, and physical health.”
Although the initiative may be much needed in a nation divided, Melania Trump hasn’t appeared to walk the walk, missing every opportunity to condemn her husband’s cruel behavior. If she’s remembered for one thing, it likely won’t be her anti-bullying initiative, but her complicity when it comes to her husband’s behavior.
Melania Trump married Donald Trump in 2005 following a career as a model. At the time, she couldn’t have known that her new husband would one day become the president of the U.S.
By 2005, Donald Trump had become a household name, both as a TV personality for his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, and for his massive success in hotel and resort real estate. Though his hateful comments have gained more attention since he entered the political sphere, Donald Trump has a long history with racism, misogynism, and prejudice.
A Voxarticle cites every racist thing Donald Trump has done since 1970. From pitching a season for Celebrity Apprentice themed “White People vs Black People” in a writers room in 2005, to his speech in which he called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” Melania Trump stood by his side without comment.
Donald Trump has made multiple inappropriate comments about his own daughters, and about his colleagues in both politics and entertainment. During the 2016 presidential race he said, “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?”
Still, Melania Trump stands idly by.
It’s not uncommon for the first lady to show loyalty to her husband in times of scandal — but as a woman, an immigrant, and a wife, Melania Trump should at the very least feel uncomfortable with the array of disgusting comments that her husband has made.
“Melania provides the president with a polished cover both for his misogyny and his general ineptitude,” Vulture said.
Melania Trump has made very few personal statements during her husband’s term. This is unusual, for normally the first lady puts herself just as much in the public eye as the president does. First ladies even sometimes speak on legislation — Ellen Wilson actively lobbied for the Alley Dwelling Bill to clean up the streets of Washington D.C., according to The National Museum of American History.
On the few occasions that Melania Trump does make a statement, it mainly revolves around defending Donald Trump. A year into his term, she gave an interview on 60 Minutes. When asked about the media’s portrayal of her husband, she simply said that the American people shouldn’t believe the negative stories that the media has reported about him.
At a rally in Pennsylvania on Oct. 27, 2020, Melania Trump admitted to not agreeing with the president’s words all the time but went on to defend the way in which he conducts himself on social media.
“Donald is a fighter; he loves this country and he fights for you every single day…for the first time in history the citizens of this country get to hear directly and instantly from their president every single day through social media. I do not always agree with the way he says things, but it is important to me that he speaks directly to the people’s concerns,” she said.
Considering that most of Melania Trump’s public statements are made in her husband’s defense, she’s consistently enabling his undiplomatic rhetoric and his offensive actions — actions that, if she wasn’t married to him, would perhaps offend her.
It’s not just about his rhetoric. During the Trump administration, America started to witness ugliness at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Under the direction of Donald Trump, hundreds of children were separated from their families and placed in inhumane conditions.
According to The Atlantic,“Americans have again recoiled in shock and horror over the past few weeks as observers visiting immigration detention facilities in the Southwest reported that children were being held in cruelly austere conditions.”
Even then, Melania Trump stayed detached.
“She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart,” Stephanie Grisham, Melania’s communications director said.
This is simply not enough to advocate for the reunification of these children with their parents. Agreeing that the country should follow all laws while glossing over the awful conditions that children are being kept in is the opposite of “govern[ing] with heart.”
As first lady, a mother, and an immigrant, this was Melania Trump’s time to show some empathy, and perhaps even take action. She could have spoken out against the problems at the border in a diplomatic way that still criticized the maltreatment, yet she remained in the shadow.
Melania Trump’s constant defense of her husband makes her complicit, and just as much to blame for all the pain that he has caused.
Featured Photo caption: First Lady Melania Trump has been frequently blamed for her complicity in regard to her husband’s mistakes. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.