It took almost five days for Melania Trump to acknowledge the “attack on democracy” that occurred, practically on her doorstep, at the US Capitol last week.
But amid her declarations of being “disappointed and disheartened” in a lengthy statement that was eventually shared to the official White House website, the outgoing First Lady took a moment to condemn her own critics, vaguely likening the attacks against her to the one that took place last Wednesday.
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“I find it shameful that surrounding these tragic events there has been salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks, and false misleading accusations on me – from people who are looking to be relevant and have an agenda,” the 50-year-old wrote.
“This time is solely about healing our country and its citizens. It should not be used for personal gain. Our Nation must heal in a civil manner. Make no mistake about it, I absolutely condemn the violence that has occurred on our Nation’s Capitol.”
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Yet her attempts to deflect critique in the face of the deadly siege – which many argue was spurned by the inflammatory language and actions of her own husband – have only managed to incite more, with US media and one of Ms Trump’s own former friends turning against her.
In a bombshell interview, the First Lady’s former adviser, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, has claimed Ms Trump’s role in the riots was far more damning than many might think.
After slamming Ms Trump’s “silence and inaction” in the direct aftermath, Ms Wolkoff has now called her belated response “vacuous”.
Speaking to CNN, she said her former friend’s words “have no meaning”.
“That’s the saddest part of all of this. They’re just words. There have been no actions,” she said.
“Melania Trump has a voice, she hasn’t used it. She has a platform, she hasn’t used it. As the First Lady of the United States of America … you have the ability to speak loudly, clearly and for the rest of Americans.”
Ms Trump is “not just complicit, she is (the President’s) enabler,” she continued.
“She is his biggest cheerleader, and unfortunately she’s done nothing but that.”
MEDIA PILE ON
Ms Wolkoff wasn’t the only person to take aim at Ms Trump’s statement – in a scathing piece for Vanity Fair, Bess Levin wrote: “If you thought what she was disappointed and disheartened about was the insurrection caused by her husband that led to literal bloodshed, you thought wrong! What she’s actually teed off about is what she perceives as … attacks on Melania Trump.”
A report from CNN White House correspondents Kate Bennett and Betsy Klein also noted that while Ms Trump managed to mourn the five lives lost and cast herself as a victim, she couldn’t find the words to place any “responsibility for the domestic terrorism on husband President Donald Trump or his rhetoric”.
Ms Trump – who in the past has been widely criticised for plagiarising the remarks of her predecessor, Michelle Obama – was also accused of repurposing parts of her own previous speeches for the statement.
“Five days were apparently not enough for Trump to proofread her statement,” Stephanie Eckardt wrote in a piece for W Magazine.
“Trump’s top staffers – two of whom resigned since Wednesday – also failed to change up even a single word in a sentence that first appeared in Trump’s 2020 Republican National Convention Speech.”
In the absence of her chief of staff Stephanie Grisham – one of the aforementioned staffers who stepped down, who had acted as Ms Trump’s closest adviser, speechwriter and spokeswoman – it’s unclear how the divisive statement came together.
Regardless, “it’s not surprising to hear Melania Trump take on a whiny, self-centred tone in response to a terrible event engendered by her husband,” The Cut’sSangeeta Singh-Kurtz wrote.
“Melania is ‘checked out’,” one White House source told CNN. “She just isn’t in a place mentally or emotionally anymore where she wants to get involved.”
The latest brutal backlash comes just weeks after the hashtag #WorstFlotusEver began to take off on social media, with critics piling on the former model by listing their many grievances against her and attacking the legacy she will leave behind on January 20.