Though Melania Trump’s press coverage has never been particularly flattering over the nearly four years she has been the first lady, the recent controversy over tapes released by her former friend and staffer Stephanie Winston Wolkoff surely represents a new low. Last month Wolkoff published a scathing memoir about her time with Trump, following it up this month by releasing tapes of conversations with her former friend, in which Trump lashes out about her press coverage and shows her lack of sympathy for families separated at the border. (She also, mind you, ponders, “Who gives a fuck about Christmas?”) But the news cycle moves fast in a presidential election; hours after the tapes were released, it emerged that the president and first lady were diagnosed with COVID-19. But Trump, it seems, does not forget so quickly.
Earlier this week the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Wolkoff over her memoir, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady. According to the New York Times, the suit alleges that Wolkoff violated a nondisclosure agreement she signed when she joined Trump’s staff as a volunteer and aims to collect some of the book’s profits. (“This lawsuit is entirely meritless,” Wolkoff’s lawyer told the Times.) On Friday, Trump seemingly capitalized on the moment to break her silence with a blistering statement about the “former contractor” who went public with those unflattering tapes. She did not name Wolkoff in the statement, but the connection was clear.
“We all know that more often than not, information that could be helpful to children is lost in the noise made by self-serving adults,” it read. “I have most recently found this to be the case as major news outlets eagerly covered salacious claims made by a former contractor who advised my office. A person who said she ‘made me’ even though she hardly knew me, and someone who clung to me after my husband won the Presidency.”
The statement was titled “Give Focus to Our Next Generation,” and in the beginning Trump paid a bit of lip service to her signature initiative, Be Best. Though it was originally intended as an anti-bullying campaign, Be Best has since become something a bit more amorphous about educating children, though it’s never been entirely clear what that means. So when it finally came time for Trump to address Wolkoff herself, it was inevitable that she would return to the theme, however glancingly.
“Anyone who is focused on tearing things down for their own gain, after knowing what I stand for, has lost sight of what we are here to accomplish and who we are here to serve,” the statement read. “To push forward a personal agenda that attempts to defame my office and the efforts of my team, only takes away from our work to help children.” She did not, however, specify exactly what work was being overshadowed.
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