After weeks of remaining out of the public eye, on Monday Melania Trump attended her first public event since May 10. During her prolonged absence, which followed a May 14 medical procedure to treat a benign kidney condition, rumors abounded about why Melania had stayed out of the public's view for so long. Indeed, President Trump himself reportedly addressed those Melania rumors by joking "Did she leave him?" during Monday's event for Gold Star families.
Melania Trump's extended disappearance from public view had sparked widespread rumors and musings about the reason behind her absence, including speculation about the state of her marriage. Indeed, these musings are likely what prompted President Trump to joke about the first lady's whereabouts.
As CNN reported, while the Gold Star families event was closed to the media out of respect for the military families attending, one attendee told the outlet that the president had joked about media speculation about Melania Trump during his remarks. As CNN indicated, the president reportedly said that the media had been asking "Where's Melania?" and at one pointed stated, "Did she leave him?" He then pointed out that she was sitting in the front row at the Gold Star families gathering. As Kate Bennett of CNN described, the moment was "playful, but a bit awkward" because of the serious nature of the event.
Prior to the Gold Star families event, Melania Trump was last seen in public on May 10. On that date, she was at Andrews Air Force Base alongside her husband to welcome back three American prisoners who had recently been released by the North Korean regime. On May 14, she underwent an embolization procedure for her kidney condition at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The first lady remained in the hospital for multiple days after her procedure and returned to the White House residence on May 19.
After Melania Trump failed to appear in public for many days following her return to the White House, many began to wonder about the first lady's whereabouts — so much so that the first lady tweeted about the matter. On May 30, she wrote:
I see the media is working overtime speculating where I am & what I'm doing. Rest assured, I'm here at the @WhiteHouse w my family, feeling great, & working hard on behalf of children & the American people!
The first lady's representatives have criticized media inquiries into Melania Trump's schedule. Indeed, on Monday, as The New York Times reported, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, said in an email:
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. ... She’s confident in what she is doing and in her role, and knows the rest is just speculation and nonsense.
While Melania Trump briefly returned to the public eye for the Gold Star families event, it is unclear when she will make her next appearance. The first lady has already indicated that she will not be attending this week's G7 summit in Quebec, Canada, which her husband is expected to attend. Moreover, she also will be skipping out on the much-hyped summit with North Korea in Singapore on June 12. However, as The New York Times reported, Trump's communications director indicated that the first lady's lack of travel plans are not surprising, saying that it is “pretty typical” to avoid traveling after undergoing medical treatment.
Overall, it is clear that both Donald and Melania Trump have noticed that the public is paying close attention to the first lady's whereabouts. While the president sought to joke about the matter at Monday's event, it will be interesting to see if and how Melania Trump's schedule changes now that she has made her first appearance in several weeks.