The public hyped it up for weeks, but on Monday, the first lady finally shut down the wild rumors over her absence. Melania Trump tweeted out photos of the Gold Star Families White House event, and you can clearly see her sitting next to President Trump in a black dress. It was the first appearance she made in more than three weeks, and photographic proof of it helped quash the swell of speculation over her whereabouts.
Trump had been MIA from public since May 10, when she joined her husband at Joint Base Andrews to welcome home three Americans who were prisoners in North Korea. Days later, she was admitted to a hospital for a minor kidney surgery. During the three weeks in which she was missing from the public eye, conspiracy theories ranging from political defection to a New York move were put out there. Her absence even inspired memes and Where's Waldo? photoshopped pictures. Trump's spokeswoman assured reporters asking about her status that the first lady was doing great and resting from her hospital procedure, but did not say at that moment when the public would see her again.
The Gold Star Families event that Trump tweeted out was closed to the public as well as the media, according to People. The reception honored families of military members who had been killed in the line of duty. The Gold Star event was closed off with no chance for press photos or video because President Trump wanted to respect the privacy of military family members, Melania Trump's communications director, Stephanie Grisham, told CNN.
“It was a privilege to welcome Gold Star Families to the White House today to recognize our nation’s fallen heroes and their families,” the first lady said in a written statement, according to People. “Thank you to those who joined us this evening and to the men and women currently serving overseas and to their families, thank you for your service.”
On May 30, Trump tweeted, with a bit of snark, in response to the stories about her disappearance from the public eye. She said the media was "working overtime speculating" where she was but assured the public that she was "feeling great" and "working hard."
Then, on Sunday, the White House announced that the first lady would not be going to the G7 summit in Quebec, Canada, a meeting that she did attend in Italy last year, according to The Guardian. The White House said she also does not plan to attend the North Korea summit on June 12 in Singapore, which only fueled more speculation over the weekend.
Ahead of the Gold Star Families reception, Grisham told CNN it was the media's fault for adding fuel to the flames. "Mrs. Trump has always been a strong and independent woman who puts her family, and certainly her health above all else, and that won't change over a rabid press corps," said Grisham to CNN. "She's confident in what she is doing and in her role, and knows the rest is just speculation and nonsense."
And, as the photos taken by the White House showed, the first lady looks like she's doing fine. During the Gold Star Families reception, the president himself acknowledged the rampant speculation, according to CNN, and he even threw out a joke about his wife's unusually long public absence, saying reporters were asking, "Where's Melania?" President Trump reportedly went on for a while about the media coverage before asking, "Did she leave him?" He then pointed toward the first lady who was there and present in the front row, CNN reports.
The first sighting of Melania Trump in nearly a month is sure to soothe those who were growing increasingly anxious over her absence. But now, the clock resets to when the public can see her next again, and if it runs too long, there's little doubt that the speculation will come creeping right back.