One of the most telling details from recent tell-alls is that Melania Trump is both unmoved by her husband’s infidelities, and indifferent to his sexual assaults. “He is who he is,” is said to be her nonchalant mantra. “I know who I married.”
That Melania has always keenly recognized the totality of Donald Trump—not just his serial philandering, but also his sexual predation, pathological lying and virulent racism—is only revelatory to those complicit in the sanitization of this FLOTUS’s image over the last four years. It’s a clean-up job undertaken despite all evidence to the contrary, extending sympathy that was never afforded to Michelle Obama, who endured unrelenting toxic racism and sexism. Yet Melania, even as she upholds violent white supremacy, demands to be seen as the injured party, dubbing herself “the most bullied person” in the world. That feigned victimology has mostly worked for her. American history is rife with Melanias, women whose whiteness presumed an innocence and virtuosity that was all too often defended with violence.
FLOTUS signed up for her current gig not just because it pays so well, though she has confirmed her marriage’s transactional nature. Responding in 2005 to the question of whether she would have married Trump were he not rich, she shot back, “If I weren't beautiful, do you think he'd be with me?" Instead, as recent books confirm, Melania was never a passive observer, helpless victim or quiet resister to her husband’s agenda—innocence always afforded white women—but an enthusiastic and willing accomplice. In other words, this FLOTUS is more than just a trophy wife or a benign accessory; she’s a collaborator, a co-conspirator, an accessory.
There was, most saliently, her vocal birtherism, which saw her—a foreign-born immigrant with an inconsistent naturalization story, clearly high on white audacity—demanding to see Barack Obama’s papers. She participated in this racist publicity stunt knowing full well that she had worked illegally in the U.S. more than a decade prior, making her definitionally one of the job-stealing undocumented immigrants her husband rants about. Her own papers, or lack thereof, would later reveal she lied for years about graduating from the University of Ljubljana, in Slovenia, never even making it past her freshman year, and instead building a middling modeling résumé that even Donald’s money wasn’t able to turn a supermodeling career, but which did afford her a completely undeserved “Einstein green card,” normally given to people who have “sustained national and international acclaim.” Going by her husband’s own terms, in 2005 she had an “anchor baby”; in 2018 she used “chain migration” to get citizenship for her parents; she used the same to secure permanent residency for her sister.
Melania’s profligate lies suggest that she knows her husband so well because they are so similar—self-interested, self-aggrandizing fabulists spreading falsehoods whenever their lips move. Though Melania claims to speak six languages, multiple native speakers of those languages in her orbit say they’ve never heard her use anything aside from English or Slovenian. She has also reportedly lied about both her age and getting plastic surgery on numerous occasions.
When her husband was caught on an Access Hollywood video bragging about criminal sexual assault, she claimed that Donald, 59 years old at the time of the recording, was just engaging in “boy talk." She took a classic blame-the-victim stance against the dozens of women who have alleged sexual harassment, abuse and assault by her husband, accusingly questioning whether anyone had “ever check[ed] the background of these women?”
In the midst of MeToo, she used her vast platform to indirectly speak on behalf of Brett Kavanaugh, telling sexual abuse survivors, "You cannot just say to somebody, 'I was sexually assaulted... You need to have really hard evidence.” After then-People magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff—who says Trump once pushed her against a wall and “shoved his tongue down [her] throat”—recalled an awkward, random encounter with Melania in New York City after the attack, she waved off the story mean girl-style, stating, “I was never friends with her, I would not recognize her." And when Jewish journalist Julia Ioffe received an onslaught of anti-Semitic abuse after revealing Melania’s father had a secret child, Melania coolly claimed she didn’t “control her fans,” and that Ioffe “provoked them.”
And then, there is her seeming obsession with Michelle Obama, the first Black first lady. Melania reportedly didn’t want to use the same toilet and shower as Obama, but then plagiarized her so blatantly the side-by-side of the orations undermines the project of white supremacy itself. In keeping with her adopted country’s cultural tendency to steal Black women’s ideas, labor and talent without credit, Melania’s named her anti-cyberbullying campaign—a laughable undertaking for someone married to the world’s biggest bully—”Be Best,” prompting New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead to note that “even the motto is a playground attempt to one-up “Be better,” the catchphrase that Michelle Obama delivered to a rapturous live audience during an interview with Oprah Winfrey.” Even the “I DON’T REALLY CARE DO U?” jacket was reportedly a way to get press that would help her outshine her predecessor. “Did Michelle Obama go to the border? She never did,” Melania reportedly ranted. “Show me the pictures!'
There’s so much more. Like the time Melania went to Africa dressed in full-on Out of Africa regalia, pith helmet and safari boots attesting to her attention to detail vis-a-vis white colonizer couture. (“It’s like showing up to a meeting of African-American cotton farmers in a Confederate uniform,” noted St. Lawrence University historian Matthew Carotenuto.) How she remained in New York City for six months before moving to the White House so she could renegotiate her prenup, racking up $676,000 in flight costs and somewhere between $127,000 and $146,000 a day for security—all paid by taxpayers—the true definition of a welfare queen. There’s that ridiculous and ineffectual Be Best campaign—which, fyi, originally plagiarized an Obama-era Federal Trade Commission document, but Melania slapped her name on it anyway—which she had the nerve to launch while her husband separates children and parents, and takes health insurance from kids and their families. At least in a rare moment of accidental transparency, Melania admitted she sees being first first lady as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity... to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term.” She may have married into the Trump family, but she has a knack for greed and corruption that’s all her own.
Melania has been about the role she’s proudly played in this violent white supremacist presidency. She had stated that she encouraged her husband to run in the first place. Like her spouse, she reportedly consumes absurd amounts of cable news, looking out for non-flattering stories about the president, and complaining when “his communications and press team aren’t doing enough to defend him.” Melania reportedly holds outsized sway over White House hirings and firings, and essentially chose Mike Pence for vice president.
She is fully on board with this whole thing—her constructions of white womanhood’s purity and innocence be damned.