Melania Trump finally attends first official event, having not been seen for 24 days
For more than three weeks, First Lady Melania Trump had stayed out of the public eye following a medical procedure for a benign kidney condition. The last event she attended with her husband was on May 10th, when the president welcomed home three Americans that had been detained in North Korea.
Yesterday, however, she returned to her duties in order to attend a White House event honouring Gold Star military families. The press were not actually present at the event out of respect for the families of fallen soldiers, but reports have confirmed that Melania was in attendance, and the first lady herself tweeted some photos from the evening.
In a statement about the Gold Star families event, Ms. Trump said that it "was a privilege to ... recognise our Nation’s fallen heroes and their families ... We remain indebted to each of them and we honour them today, together, with their families. Thank you to those who joined us this evening and to the men and women currently serving overseas and to their families, thank you for your service. We send our prayers to all of those in harm's way".
But her long-awaited return has not quelled any suspicions that something isn't quite right in the White House.
In Melania's absence, rumours began to circulate that her absence was something more than her simply taking some recovery time following her operation (especially as she was actually discharged from the hospital just five days after, on May 19th), and that - in fact - she was trying very hard to distance herself from Donald Trump.
Indeed, while Mr. and Ms. Trump were at the event last night, the president made at least one ill-judged joke about his relationship:
What's more, several conspiracy theories surfaced last week when Melania made her first social media announcement in a while.
"I see the media is working overtime speculating where I am & what I'm doing," she tweeted from the FLOTUS account. "Rest assured, I'm here at the @WhiteHouse w my family, feeling great, & working hard on behalf of children & the American people!"
Even with some supposed evidence that Melania had not disappeared off the face of the Earth, however, many people were not convinced that the first lady was being wholly truthful about why she wasn't keeping up with her usual number of media appearances. In fact, many weren't convinced that Melania had been the one who'd sent the tweet.
These theories about her possibly having separated from the president were bolstered when the first lady announced she would not be attending the upcoming G7 or Singapore summits.
"The fact that there does not appear to be any logical reason for why she's not going [to the summits] is likely to fuel our suspicions that the Trump marriage is distant and or dysfunctional," said Stacy Cordery, a history professor at Iowa State University. "There's so little information coming from Ms Trump's media team that Americans – and really, people around the world – are forced to fill in the blanks."
It is certainly unusual for Melania to not attend these summits, as the first lady's presence - while not mandatory - is almost always expected; and, until she provides a better explanation for her absence, the public are obviously going to assume that she and President Trump are experiencing marital difficulties.