In an op-ed for CNN published Sunday, Melania Trump's spokesperson pushed back against criticism of the first lady, saying the media coverage of Melania is unfair. The op-ed was in response to a piece by author Kate Anderson Brower who said Melania has "proved that she doesn't understand what it means to be first lady."
In reply, Stephanie Grisham — Melania's deputy chief of staff for communications — called Brower's analysis "condescending" and "another unnecessary attack" on Melania. Grisham said she thinks her op-ed will be "framed as another assault on the press" but insisted she speak out on behalf of her boss.
"The media consistently ignores the first lady's work on behalf of the people of this country, and children in particular, in favor of more trivial matters," Grisham wrote. "This holiday season, Mrs. Trump has made every effort to spread joy and good cheer to citizens across the country." Grisham cited Melania's volunteering at a Toys for Tots drive at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 11 (which was covered by Reuters, The Washington Post, and The Associated Press), as well as her visit to patients at the Children's National hospital on Thursday (which was covered by ABC News, C-SPAN and The Washington Post).
Despite the media coverage that Melania's holiday-themed visits received this week, Grisham wrote that Brower's op-ed — combined with a CNN poll that showed Melania's approval rating plummeting by double digits — was "to willfully ignore" Melania's activities as first lady since January 2017. "When Brower claims Mrs. Trump has no understanding of what it means to be first lady, she intentionally ignores all the effort the first lady has put into fulfilling the traditional responsibilities of the role," Grisham said, citing the state dinner Melania hosted for French President Emmanuel Macron and Melania's solo journey to the funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush in Houston.
Grisham continued to list Melania's travels, including her visit with children being held in immigration facilities in Arizona and Texas in June as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" border policy that resulted in family separations. (There was no mention of Melania's headline-stirring "I Don't Really Care, Do U?" jacket.) Grisham also cited Melania's public service announcement created with the Federal Emergency Management Agency urging Americans to continue to help survivors of multiple hurricanes. (The PSA was covered by US News & World Report, CNN, and The Hill.)
The cognitive dissonance around Melania's attempts to reduce cyberbullying was also addressed by Grisham's op-ed. "When she announced 'Be Best,' her campaign to help children all over the world, the media criticized her for focusing on the importance of safe and responsible behavior online, presumably because they disagree with her husband's use of Twitter," Grisham wrote. She continued:
The media fumbled a critical opportunity to highlight the many inspiring children, families and programs Mrs. Trump mentioned during her speech. News personalities and outlets use the 'Be Best' hashtag to taunt her about her husband, instead of focusing on the underlying message of kindness and compassion the campaign is intended to convey.
Grisham ended her op-ed with a plea to the media: "Hopefully, the media will eventually learn to celebrate a woman who, through all the noise, is able to hold steadfast to her mission and stay true to herself."