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27 Nov 2020 16:29
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  •   Home > News > International

    Melania Trump joins the US election campaign trail, telling Pennsylvania rally she doesn't always agree with the President's approach

    It was Melania Trump's first public appearance since her COVID-19 diagnosis, and her first time out on the campaign trail in more than a year.

    Since her COVID-19 diagnosis earlier this month, US first lady Melania Trump had been largely absent from the presidential campaign trail.

    But with less than a week to go in the election race, Ms Trump has made her first solo appearance on behalf of husband Donald Trump.

    At a rally in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, Ms Trump thanked the crowd for supporting her and her husband.

    The first lady said she doesn't always agree with her husband's approach

    Ms Trump used her rare public appearance in Atglen to criticise Joe Biden and the Democrats for focussing on a "sham impeachment" instead of the coronavirus pandemic.

    She slammed Mr Biden's "socialist agenda", praised Mr Trump as "a fighter" and also poked fun at her husband's use of social media.

    The first lady admitted she often disagreed with her husband, but said he was a hard worker who loved communicating directly with the American people.

    "For the first time in history the citizens of this country get to hear directly and instantly from their President every single day through social media," she told the crowd.

    "I don't always agree the way he says things, but it is important to him that he speaks directly to the people he serves."

    When was the last time we saw Melania speak?

    Just last week the first lady pulled out of plans to accompany Mr Trump to a campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, because of what her chief of staff said was a lingering cough from her bout with COVID-19.

    It would have been Ms Trump's first public appearance since recovering from the virus, and her first time out on the campaign trail in more than a year.

    The last time she appeared at a Trump campaign rally was at a June 2019 event in Orlando, Florida, where the President launched his re-election bid and she spoke very briefly.

    In August she addressed a mostly virtual Republican National Convention from the White House Rose Garden.

    Since Donald Trump took office, Melania has largely kept out of the spotlight

    Following the 2017 inauguration, the first lady broke from tradition by deciding not to move into the White House with her husband.

    Instead she continued to live at Trump Tower in New York City with the couple's son Barron — then aged 11 — so he could finish the school year uninterrupted.

    It wasn't until June, after nearly five months of living apart, that Melania and Barron moved into the White House in Washington DC.

    She tweeted at the time:

    Over the years, Ms Trump's occasional public appearances have triggered flurries of comments and news stories dissecting her fashion choices, facial expressions and body language.

    From wearing a black gown and veil to the Vatican, to a pith helmet on safari in Africa, to designer stilettos on a visit to Texas following Hurricane Harvey, to the infamous 'I don't care, do you?' jacket on a flight to a facility housing migrant children separated from their parents, pundits regularly weigh in on the first lady's sartorial choices.

    There has also been a focus on her facial expressions:

    And speculation over her body language:

    This year Melania hit the headlines for two big reasons

    At the start of October, a former friend and confidante leaked secretly recorded tapesof the first lady venting about the media, having to decorate the White House for Christmas, and the conditions migrant children face in the US.

    "They are taken care of nicely there. But you know, yeah, they are not with parents. It's sad. But when they come here alone or with coyotes or illegally, you know, you need to do something," she said.

    "They say I'm complicit … I don't say enough, I don't do enough.

    "I'm working like … my ass off at Christmas stuff that, you know, who gives a f*** about Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?

    "OK and then I do it and I say that I'm working on Christmas planning for the Christmas and they say, 'Oh what about the children that they were separated?' Give me a f***ing break."

    The tapes were recorded and released by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who released a book last month titled Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady.

    Ms Trump called the revelations "malicious gossip", tweeting that the media should instead "report on the nation's drug crisis".

    Then on October 2, the US President announced both he and the first lady had tested positive for COVID-19. Fourteen-year-old Barron also later tested positive.

    The Trumps quarantined at the White House before the President was taken to the Walter Reed Medical Center for treatment.

    Ms Trump thanked supporters at the Pennsylvania rally for the love and support, saying: "We are all feeling so much better now".

    "Like many of you, I have experienced the first-hand effects of COVID-19, not only as a patient, but as a worried mother and wife.

    "I know there are many people who have lost loved ones or know people who have been forever impacted by this silent enemy. My family's thoughts and prayers are with all of you through this difficult time.

    Former friends say the first lady is no wallflower

    Speaking to Donald Trump's former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen on his podcast Mea Culpa, Ms Winston Wolkoff said Ms Trump was not naive, that her marriage was, "transactional", the pair had, "their kind of love".

    "I did spend time with them alone [and] she was unlike any other Trump insider or family member," Ms Winston Wolkoff told Mr Cohen.

    "Melania was actually able to tell Donald whatever she was thinking, however she felt, whatever she thought, and she would say it in such a tone that, you know her eyes sparkled and she'd tilt her head and he'd listen to her.

    "Melania wasn't so naive as to think their relationship didn't serve a purpose for each of them, but as I'd come to see as our friendship grew closer, theirs was a kind of love nonetheless.

    "Melania will always back up Donald no matter what."

    Discussing the leaked Access Hollywood tape where Mr Trump made vulgar comments about women, Ms Winston Wolkoff said Ms Trump told her: "Do not worry about me, I know exactly who I married."

    Mr Cohen, who was jailed for lying to Congress over a Moscow Trump Tower project, agreed.

    "She said the same thing to me, 'Don't worry I'm not a wallflower'," he said.

    © 2020 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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