May 07, 2018
The first lady, whose husband is known for his own brand of online insults, will focus on good behaviour on social media as part of a broader initiative that will explore the overall well-being of children.
Melania Trump to focus on social media behaviour in children’s agenda
WASHINGTON—When she unveils her official initiative as first lady on Monday, Melania Trump will follow in the footsteps of other modern first ladies who focused on their passions.
Laura Bush championed literacy. Michelle Obama was an advocate for fitness. Trump will focus on good behaviour on social media as part of a broader initiative that will focus on the overall well-being of children.
In recent months Trump had backed away from her initial promise to combat cyberbullying after the criticism levelled at her husband for his own brand of online insults. Knowing she would get criticized if she pursued anything related to social media, the president suggested she take an easier path. But Melania Trump ultimately decided to make good online behaviour a part of something broader.
“There are too many critical issues facing children today for her to choose just one,” her spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, said in an email about the first lady’s plans. “She wants to use her platform as first lady to help as many children as she can.”
But like the first lady herself, the full details of the plan are likely to remain mysterious even after they are revealed. She is likely to take up issues she learned about in recent public appearances: She has visited a West Virginia clinic that treats infants born with opioid addiction, and a Michigan school to stress the importance of kindness. Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to the president, has been a particular help briefing Melania Trump on the opioid crisis, a White House official said.
In her brief time at the White House — Melania Trump moved to Washington with her son, Barron, last June — she took her time establishing her own profile, with only a stilletoed misstep or two — literally: She piqued the public’s interest by wearing high heels on a trip to an area decimated by a hurricane. But she also drew positive attention for speaking before her husband about a protest in Charlottesville, Va., that left one woman dead.
In January, amid news that Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic actress known as Stormy Daniels, had accused the president’s attorney of paying her to stay silent about an affair days before the 2016 election, Melania Trump put the brakes on her public appearances. Her office dismissed her absence as a coincidence, while others close to the president said that Melania Trump had been surprised and angered by the news reports.
In recent months, Melania Trump has emerged more often without U.S. President Donald Trump by her side. She has twice been seen avoiding or swatting the president’s hand away during public appearances — mishaps she has privately dismissed as bad photography angles — and she is rolling out her platform even as Donald Trump and his legal team have added new, confusing contours to the story surrounding Daniels. She has directed her 10-person East Wing staff to stay focused by telling them that the stories swirling about Daniels are “just noise.”
The state visit by French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, brought a new level of attention to the East Wing, particularly after Brigitte Macron commented that Melania Trump was essentially trapped in the White House.
“Melania can’t do anything, she can’t even open a window in the White House,” Brigitte Macron told the French newspaper Le Monde. “She can’t put her nose out. Me, every day, I’m out in Paris.”
One person close to Melania Trump said that, like other modern first ladies, she has chafed against some of the boundaries of living in the White House. But, that person said, she has begun to embrace the possibilities of her role, particularly because she has been touched by letters she has received.
According to two others who know her, she has adjusted to the role primarily because her 12-year-old-son is happy in Washington.
“She’s a devoted mother,” Hilary Ross, the wife of Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump’s commerce secretary and a frequent dinner guest of the Trumps, said in an interview. “And if her son is happy, she is happy.”
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