The first lady has broken her silence over last week’s attack on the Capitol, calling for unity in a time of national crisis.
But while expressing regret over the five lives lost last week, Melania Trump honored the participants in the riot first, before naming the Capitol Police officer killed when a pro-Trump mob stormed the federal building while a joint session of Congress was in the process of certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election last Wednesday, nor a second officer who died, reportedly by suicide, in the days afterward.
The perceived slight in particular is drawing flak online.
‘My heart goes out to: Air Force Veteran, Ashli Babbitt, Benjamin Philips, Kevin Greeson, Rosanne Boyland, and Capitol Police Officers, Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood. I pray for their families comfort and strength during this difficult time.’
Many readers seized on the FLOTUS’s naming of Babbitt, who was among a crowd breaking down the doors to a barricaded room near the Speaker’s Lobby when she was fatally shot by Capitol Police, before identifying the officers who died defending the seat of the country’s legislative branch. The Melania Trump statement also led “Air Force veteran” to trend on Twitter on Monday morning.
“Noteworthy that she expresses condolences for Ashli Babbitt and IDs her only as an ‘Air Force Veteran’ before mentioning the two Capitol Police officers who have also died later in the same sentence,” tweeted Washington Post reporter James Hohmann.
The first lady also devoted space in her statement to calling out a CNN report from over the weekend that claimed she was overseeing a photo shoot of rugs and other items in the White House Executive Residence at the time of the attack on the Capitol.
The story maintains that rather than issue a statement of calm or unity at the time, as the FLOTUS had done last summer during the protests against police brutality after the death of George Floyd, she remained quiet and continued with the photo shoot. Her chief of staff Stephanie Grisham and White House social secretary Cristina “Rickie” Niceta, two of the first lady’s first hires, resigned soon afterward.
Trump had a stern response to that report:
‘I am disappointed and disheartened with what happened last week. 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.’
“This time is solely about healing our country and its citizens,” she continued. “It should not be used for personal gain.”
Critics on both sides of the political aisle accused the first lady of painting herself as the victim following a national tragedy.
“Five people died in a domestic terror attack on our own republic last week incited by her husband but Melania Trump is the victim in this?!” tweeted Meghan McCain, daughter of the late Sen. John McCain. “Every morning I think I can’t get more disgusted … ”
Melania Trump’s remarks also didn’t address calls for her husband to resign, nor Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s intention to impeach President Trump over his role in inciting the attack on the Capitol if Vice President Mike Pence does not invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office. More than half of Americans in an ABC/Ipsos poll believe that Trump should be stripped of the presidency, and more than two-thirds of respondents said he shared a “good amount” or a “great deal” of blame for the Capitol riot.
The first lady implored people to “stop the violence, never make assumptions based on the color of a person’s skin or use differing political ideologies as a basis for aggression and viciousness. We must listen to one another, focus on what unites us, and rise above what divides us,” her statement read.
And she concluded her statement by noting it has been “the honor of my lifetime” to serve as the first lady, and thanked the Americans who have supported her and the president.
“I am grateful to you all for letting me serve you on platforms which are dear to me,” she said. “Most importantly, I ask for healing, grace, understanding, and peace for our great Nation.”