WASHINGTON — Melania Trump, the first lady, said that the reason she incorporated social media abuse into “Be Best,” her public awareness campaign on children's issues, is that she herself is one of the world's most high-profile victims of bullying ...
Melania Trump arriving in Accra, Ghana, earlier this month during her first solo overseas trip as first lady.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
Oct. 11, 2018
WASHINGTON — Melania Trump, the first lady, said that the reason she incorporated social media abuse into “Be Best,” her public awareness campaign on children’s issues, is that she herself is one of the world’s most high-profile victims of bullying.
“I could say I’m the most bullied person on the world,” Mrs. Trump said in an interview with ABC News that was filmed during her visit to Kenya last week.
When asked to clarify whether she indeed believed that, Mrs. Trump seemed to couch her reply.
“One of them,” Mrs. Trump said, “if you really see what people saying about me.”
As one of the most visible women in an increasingly divided country, Mrs. Trump is not exactly wrong: Each public statement she makes, whether it’s to offer words of comfort after a tragedy or to promote one of her initiatives, is met with a torrent of abuse, including hate-filled comments and racy photos from her career as a model.
But her comment again put her in stark contrast with her husband, who is known to bully both adversaries and allies. And around the same time as ABC was airing her interview, the president was on Fox News publicly doing battle with his enemies. In a lengthy interview with “Fox & Friends,” his preferred morning program, Mr. Trump was asked about “the heat” he took for attending a “Make America Great Again” rally in Pennsylvania as a deadly hurricane hit Florida.
“I really had very little heat other than the natural haters,” Mr. Trump said. “Relative to other things, I think it was very minor.”
On her recent six-day trip through four African countries, Mrs. Trump used her high profile to spotlight the work the Trump administration is doing to assist with foreign aid. By visiting with children, feeding baby elephants and cuddling orphans, Mrs. Trump, a notoriously private first lady, also made strides in showcasing a more open side of herself — not to mention a presidential administration that is increasingly isolationist in its foreign policy.
Mrs. Trump was less successful in avoiding criticism over what she wore. She was accused of being ignorant to the struggles of African people when she decided to wear a white pith helmet — a symbol of colonial rule — while on safari in Kenya. The outfit she wore to tour the Great Sphinx in Egypt was also criticized for looking too much like a costume.
“I wish people would focus on what I do,” an exasperated Mrs. Trump said in rare public comments to reporters, “not what I wear.”
Mrs. Trump shares her husband’s grievances about how the Trumps are covered in the news media. She also shares his distrust of people outside of the Trump inner circle: In the interview, which is scheduled to air in its entirety this weekend, Mrs. Trump also said there were aides in the West Wing her husband could not trust. “It’s harder to govern,” Mrs. Trump said. “You always need to watch your back.”
Stephanie Grisham, her communications director, said that in talking about her own experience in the ABC interview, the first lady was trying to make a broader point and bring renewed attention to her initiative.
“Her point was that people can be very cruel online,” Ms. Grisham said, “so it’s through Be Best that she hopes to educate children and provide tools to help them cope with dangerous online behavior.”
Mrs. Trump is not the first person in her role to face a barrage of online hatred. Her predecessor, Michelle Obama, regularly dealt with racist comments and memes, and still does: After official portraits of President and Mrs. Obama were unveiled earlier this year, critics mocked them using racist imagery.
“Over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me,” Mrs. Obama said during a 2015 commencement address at Tuskegee University. “Cable news once charmingly referred to me as “Obama’s Baby Mama.”
Mrs. Obama added that her husband still faced criticism from people who accused him of being a Kenyan citizen as part of the so-called birther movement popularized by Mr. Trump: “Even today, there are still folks questioning his citizenship.”
A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A15 of the New York edition with the headline: First Lady Talks of Feeling Like ‘Most Bullied’ in World. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
Al Drago for The New York Times
Ozan Kose/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald, via Associated Press
Doug Mills/The New York Times
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