We haven’t heard much from first lady Melania Trump in recent weeks since she got a White House national security official reassigned , so it’s noteworthy that she’s scheduled two public occasions this week for speaking out.
She’s delivering remarks but she’s not taking questions. She does not feel the need to be in the media spotlight that much, says her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham.
On Tuesday, Trump and second lady Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, traveled a block from the White House to the headquarters of the American Red Cross to help assemble military comfort kits for American troops who have been deployed in Iraq, Poland, Kuwait and Djibouti.
She briefly addressed volunteers at the event, which is a fairly typical FLOTUS engagement: Former first lady Laura Bush did the same in December 2008.
Trump “has a natural gift of being kind and loving to others,” Pence said of the first lady, speaking of the trip they took to Texas last holiday season in support of hurricane victims.
When Trump, 48, rose to speak, she got a standing ovation, according to the White House pool report. She said Tuesday’s “tragic news” out of Afghanistan (three troops killed by a roadside bomb) “drives home the need to support the men and women in our military and their families. We lift up the families affected by this terrible loss,” she said.
On Wednesday, Trump is scheduled to travel to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, southwest of Washington, to attend an “opioid town hall” hosted by ex-Fox News commentator Eric Bolling, whose teen son died of an accidental overdose of opioids in September 2017.
Again, Trump is to deliver remarks addressing opioid abuse and she will meet with students to discuss the opioid epidemic, one of her signature first lady causes. (She also spoke about the epidemic at a White House event Oct. 24 when President Trump signed sweeping anti-opioid legislation.)
A small pool of reporters is going with her but, as with the Red Cross event, no one is likely to get her chatting or answering questions.
Grisham said Trump plans to take questions from the students she meets on Wednesday, but she didn’t take questions from the media at the Red Cross event because “it would have been odd” amidst assembling the care packages.
Trump has only been glimpsed in recent days, a silentpresence at the Medal of Freedom ceremony on Nov. 16 , at the White House turkey-pardoning and Christmas tree delivery ceremonies last week , a snapshot of her at the Thanksgiving table with the rest of the family at Mar-a-Lago , and the usual pictures walking to and from helicopters and jets, usually in the dark, on the way to and from Florida .
Ordinarily, first ladies rarely say anything dramatic regarding policy (except for former first lady Hillary Clinton), and Trump has been the quietest, most low-key first lady since Bess Truman repeatedly fled Washington for Missouri during Harry Truman’s presidency in the 1940s.
But on Nov. 13, Trump did something unexpected by any first lady let alone her: She issued a statement calling for a high-ranking national security official, Mira Ricardel, to be fired because she no longer “deserves the honor” of serving in the White House. A day later, Ricardel was gone, reassigned by the president.
Even then we never actually heard Trump’s voice – or anyone’s voice. She instructed Grisham to issue the statement.
Weeks later, many people remain curious: Was it really true that Trump’s stilettos trampled Ricardel because she was nasty to the East Wing staff while they were planning Trump’s October tour of four African countries?
Trump is not telling.
Even for that most innocuous of first lady-type events – the big reveal of the White House Christmas decorations that she personally designed – Trump was not present when reporters and photographers were led through the exuberantly decorated rooms on Monday.
Instead, she posted a video of herself wandering alone through the White House looking at the decorations. “The People’s House @WhiteHouse is ready to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season!,” the cheery tweet said.
“She does not feel the need to seek out press attention for everything, and wanted this year’s Christmas décor to stand on its own,” explained Grisham.
The East Wing also issued a lengthy statement discussing the theme of this year’s holiday dress-up, intended to make the White House “shine with the spirit of patriotism.”
Trump had nothing to say to media cameras about the decorations but plenty of jokesters on Twitter had mocking things to say about the decor, especially about a hallway lined with blood-red tree topiaries without any ornaments.
“‘Handmaid’s Tale,'” tweet-shouted a chorus. “Welcome to Gilead of Trump!” Some added to the tree pictures the white nun-like headgear the women wear as part of their red nun-like habits on the dystopian series.
But then, everybody’s a design critic on Twitter. They were just as mocking about the icy white decor of Trump’s decorations last year, the Trumps’ first Christmas in the White House.
Except for a sit-down interview with ABC during her Africa trip, Trump has shown little interest in interacting with the media, and thus reaching a far greater audience than a few hundred people here and there. In fact, she echoes her husband in expressions of disdain for the press – but he still talks to reporters, seeming to relish engaging with them.
She does not. As she said in the ABC interview, her infamous “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” message jacket she wore on a humanitarian visit to the Texas border, was a “message” aimed at the “left-winged media who are criticizing me.”
“I want to show them (the media) that I don’t care,” Trump said. “I would prefer that they focus on what I do, and on my initiatives, than on what I wear.”