With the partial government shutdown still dragging on, President Donald Trump made headlines Monday by serving fast food to the Clemson Tigers, who were visiting the White House after winning the College Football National Championship. For many observers, though, that wasn't even the most bizarre moment of the evening. President Trump joked about Melania Trump making salads for the players, and commentators immediately called the suggestion sexist.
"So I had a choice. Do we have no food for you, cause we have a shutdown?" the president asked at the event for the players, as CNN broadcast. "Or do we give you some little quick salads that the first lady will make along with, along with the second lady, they'll make some salads?"
Trump then went on to present the idea of "[sending] out for about 1,000 hamburgers, Big Macs" — and two of CNN's commentators immediately noted what they saw as the sexist nature of the president's hamburger joke.
"It seems to me like the president will not be happy until there is not one single female Republican voter in the country. It’s incredibly sexist,” CNN analyst Joan Walsh told CNN host Erin Burnett. “He shouldn’t talk about the first lady in that way. We aren’t all here to make salads for men.”
“This is one of those things where sometimes what people say when they’re being funny exposes exactly who they are and what they think. Not that there’s any question, but this is pretty clear,” Burnett added.
However, the third member of CNN's panel, conservative commentator Scott Jennings, argued that the joke didn't sound sexist to him.
"I make salad, and my wife makes salad," Burnett said. "It didn’t strike me that way. I think he was trying to make a joke about feeding hamburgers to football players. I think that you might be overreading this one.”
"I hadn't seen the clip of Trump saying the First and Second Lady should have made salads for the Clemson players. Wow," investigative journalist Victoria Brownworth tweeted on Monday.
While the role of first lady is undefined and largely depends on the person who holds it, as Refinery29 wrote, it's been a long time since the president's partner was expected to merely act as a hostess. While Melania has embraced some tasks related to taking care of the White House — like designing the Christmas decorations, for example — her major focus as first lady has been her "Be Best" initiative to support children. Given "Be Best's" lofty goals of promoting children's well-being, stopping online bullying, and preventing opioid addiction from the start, it's unlikely Melania spends much of her time cooking.
For many of Trump's critics, though, this comment fits into a pattern of sexist comments that the president has made both before he took office and in the two years since. No amount of criticism has changed his method of address — so it's unlikely this will be the last time Trump says something that many regard as sexist.