Melania Trump lamented the rise in online bullying during a speech Thursday in the Philadelphia suburbs, saying she would work to crack down on the meanness permeating through social media if she became First Lady.
“Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers,” Trump said Thursday afternoon in Pennsylvania. “It is never OK when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied or attacked … It is absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone with no name hiding on the internet.”
“We have to find a better way to talk to each other, to disagree with each other, to respect each other,” she continued. “We must find better ways to honor and support the basic goodness of our children, especially in social media. It will be one of the main focuses of my work if I’m privileged enough to become your First Lady.”
Trump made no allusion to the fact that her husband has engaged in numerous Twitter wars over the course of his campaign and that he’s often the instigator of those Internet fights. (For example, in 2015 he referred to Fox News host Megyn Kelly as a “bimbo” and in September he urged his followers to “check out” a nonexistent sex tape of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.) Her only oblique reference to her husband’s numerous campaign controversies came at the beginning of her speech, when she smiled at the crowd and said, “He certainly knows how to shake things up, doesn’t he?”
This was the first time Melania Trump had delivered a speech since her address at the Republican convention in July, which borrowed passages from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. (Within days, a campaign staffer resigned over the incident.) Even though Melania hasn’t taken the stage since then, her rare public appearances have still caused some kerfuffles. At the second presidential debate in October, just two days after the 2005 Access Hollywood tape leaked of Donald Trump saying he likes to “grab women by the p—y,” Melania showed up wearing a bright pink Gucci top in a style called a “pussy bow.”
The potential First Lady may have been content to stay off the campaign trail; during a joint television interview last week, she seemed surprised when her husband said she would be making speeches. “I might join him. We will see,” she said on ABC News. “She’s actually going to make two or three speeches,” Trump said. “Oh?” she said, widening her eyes and laughing.
In keeping with her media-shy campaign, Trump’s Thursday speech lasted just about 15 minutes. But she pulled back the curtain a bit on what she does while her husband is off campaigning to cheering crowds around the country, explaining her time at home with their 10-year-old son Barron. “We talk a little bit about politics and a lot about life, homework and sports,” she said of conversations with her son. “Barron has many privileges and advantages. We know how fortunate we are. Still, we have the same conversations with my son that many of you have with your sons and daughters and nieces and nephews, grandchildren and godchildren.”
She also talked about her early career as a model in Paris and Milan: “Fashion is a business of glamor, but it is also hard work,” she said. “There are ups and downs, high highs, and ridicule and rejection, too.”
And she framed her passion for her husband’s campaign through her worldview as an immigrant to America. “I grew up in a small town in Slovenia near beautiful river and forests,” she said. “It was a beautiful childhood, my parents were wonderful. Of course we always knew about the incredible place called America… America meant, if you could dream it you could become it.” She said Ronald Reagan’s presidency was “a true inspiration” to her and described her joy at becoming an American citizen in 2006, the year after she became Donald Trump’s third wife.
That patriotism, she says, provides the foundation of her husband’s run for president and of their marriage. “Love for this country is something we immediately shared when I met Donald,” she said.