Melania Trump has shown a penchant for her husband’s favourite move: if you don’t like your press coverage, attack the press.
Her deputy chief of staff for communications, Stephanie Grisham, penned an op-ed published on CNN in response to a CNN contributor’s criticism of the first lady. In it, Grisham attempted to remind people of the philanthropic missions undertaken by Melania Trump, but its overarching message reminds us that the Trumps have a pattern of deflecting criticism against them and redirecting it toward the media.
Grisham claims the op-ed is “yet another unnecessary attack on the first lady” based on one answer in one interview and indicative of the media’s entire characterisation of Trump. According to Grisham, the media ignores the good things Trump does in favour of criticising trivial things such as a jacket or her shoes. Grisham is asking for honest and unbiased reporting. The problem is Grisham is misconstruing honest and unbiased reporting for positive coverage of the first lady. Trump honestly wore a jacket that, by her own admission, was aimed at sending a message to the media while she was on her way to visit a facility for migrant children in Texas. Factual reporting is not always positive. The media reported on the message the first lady put out. The fastest way to avoid overshadowing Trump’s good work would be to skip the jacket and stay on message.
The initial op-ed Grisham responded to, written by Kate Andersen Brower, comes at a time when Melania Trump’s approval ratings have plummeted. They are at 43%, down 11 points in the last two months. When Trump was interviewed by Sean Hannity for Fox News and offered the opportunity to talk about the most difficult part of her job, she chose to further paint herself as a victim of the media. She said that her biggest challenge was “comedians to journalists to performers, book writers.”
Trump has previously claimed that she is “the most bullied person in the world,” or at least one of them. Rather than stay on message and talk about one of the charities she has visited, she put herself in the spotlight and offered an answer formatted like those we have come to expect from her husband, President Donald Trump: self-aggrandising and thin-skinned.
If the media is to do as Grisham asks and focus solely on “the deeper issues facing our country that she has tirelessly worked to address,” we would also find this area of the first lady’s agenda to be lacking. When asked whether she supported women and the #MeToo movement during an interview for ABC World News Tonight, Trump responded, “Sometimes the media goes too far and the way they portray some stories is not correct.” Her answer said more about men being unfairly accused than it did about a women’s right to be believed and respected.
Grisham is right. To focus solely on Trump’s answer in her interview with Hannity is to ignore what she does as part of her role as first lady – the good and the bad – but it wasn’t Brower’s op-ed that first chose to ignore Trump’s actions. It is Melania Trump and her staff who focused on her media coverage rather than what she is actually doing.