On Monday, nearly five days after pro-Trump insurrectionists unleashed violence on the Capitol, Melania Trump broke her silence, blasting what she described as “unwarranted personal attacks” leveled against her in the wake of last week’s chaos. The first lady also memorialized the four dead rioters who had participated in the mob before mentioning the two Capitol police officers, Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, who died following the mayhem.
“I find it shameful that surrounding these tragic events there has been salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks, and false misleading accusations on me from people who are looking to be relevant and have an agenda,” Trump said in a statement. “This time is solely about healing our country and its citizens. It should not be used for personal gain.”
While the statement makes gestures at healing and reconciliation, it does little to dispense with Trump’s apparent sense of victimhood and her deliberate elevation of those who committed violence in her husband’s name. It comes just as Ashli Babbitt, one of the women killed in Wednesday’s violence, is quickly becoming a rallying call for far-right extremists eager to paint Babbitt as a martyr for their movement. Trump’s name-checking is all but certain to fuel her canonization, as extremists plan for more violence ahead of Inauguration Day.
As her statement was released Monday morning, some news outlets ran it with the frame the first lady had all but certainly hoped for:
That tracks with Trump’s uncanny ability, like first daughter Ivanka Trump, to plant media stories with portraits of a more gentle, moderating force against the president’s worst instincts. Those efforts were described as recently as this morning in the New York Times:
Among those said to be furious with the president was Melania Trump, the first lady. While she has stayed quiet publicly, people close to the situation said she was upset with her husband for what had taken place, as well as his decision not to attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration.
Trump’s on-the-record remarks on Monday, however, tell quite a different story.
This post has been updated.