Melania offered her condolences Monday to the families of police officers and Donald Trump supporters who died due to the riot. She also lamented the personal backlash she has faced since the attack, and did not mention how her husband riled up the mob with his false claims about an election he lost.
Melania specifically mourned the President Trump supporters first in her statement, starting with Ashli Babbitt, the QAnon believer who was fatally shot while trying to breach a locked-down area of the Capitol where members of Congress were taking shelter. The first lady highlighted Babbitt’s past as an “Air Force Veteran,” and did not mention how she was trying to participate in the derailment of a democratic election result.
The first lady also spelled Babbitt’s name wrong in the error-filled statement — her first since her chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, resigned after last week’s attack.
“My heart goes out to: Air Force Veteran, Ashli Babbit (sic), Benjamin Philips, Kevin Greeson, Rosanne Boyland and Capitol Police Officers, Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood,” Trump said in her statement. “I pray for their families (sic) comfort and strength during this difficult time.”
Babbitt had a long social media history of promoting QAnon, the fantastical far-right conspiracy theory that helped fuel the violence on Jan. 6. The hoax imagines Trump as a warrior for God against a deep-state cabal of cannibalistic pedophiles. It also promises a moment of reckoning called “The Storm,” when Trump and his allies will punish their enemies and execute various government officials. Babbitt had tweeted about participating in The Storm before the attack.
Rioter Kevin Greeson, 55, died of a heart attack during the excitement. Benjamin Philips, 50, reportedly died of a stroke. Rosanne Boyland, 34, was a Trump supporter who appeared to have been trampled by the MAGA mob.
Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died after he was bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher by Trump supporters, The Associated Press reports. Officer Howard Liebengood reportedly died by suicide on Saturday.
In her statement, the first lady went on to complain about the backlash she has faced following the riot, before offering her condemnation of the violence.
“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,” she wrote.
She then called on the nation to heal, adding: “Make no mistake about it, I absolutely condemn the violence that has occurred on our Nation’s Capitol. Violence is never acceptable.”
She did not mention President Trump’s role in inciting the riot, which happened immediately after he addressed supporters and told them to march on the Capitol.
Melania was posing for a photoshoot with various pieces of furniture at the White House during the riot, CNN reports.
Melania did not specifically mention what backlash and “gossip” had upset her, though her former friend and assistant Stephanie Winston Wolkoff did blast her in an editorial for the Daily Beast after the Capitol riot.
Wolkoff ripped Melania in her editorial as being “complicit in the destruction of America,” with no regard for the country or anyone else. She also echoed many of the criticisms she included in her tell-all book, which was published in late 2019.
“Melania knows how to ‘Be Best’ at standing up and reading from a teleprompter and not from the heart,” Wolkoff wrote in the editorial. “Melania is simply an extension of her husband, just as hypocritical, speaking out of both sides of her mouth, when it suits her best.”
The first lady’s signature program in office has been #BeBest, an anti-bullying campaign that encourages civil discourse on social media. President Trump tweeted the #BeBest hashtag a handful of times over the years, in between his daily efforts to bully his perceived enemies on Twitter.
Twitter permanently banned Trump from its platform on Friday, after he returned from a post-riot suspension and went back to riling up his base with incendiary remarks. Trump tried to break through the ban by commandeering other accounts, prompting Twitter to lock them too.
The fiasco led to speculation that Trump might try to seize Melania’s account, though that did not happen.
Melania tweeted her statement from the @FLOTUS account early Monday.
“I implore people to stop the violence, never make assumptions based on the colour of a person’s skin or use differing political ideologies as a basis for aggression and viciousness,” she wrote in the statement.
“We must listen to one another, focus on what unites us, and rise above what divides us.”
—With files from The Associated Press
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