WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, left many scratching their heads this week when the former model and mother to a 10-year-old son said her priority as first lady would be to fight cyberbullying, lamenting a U.S. culture that has grown “too mean and too rough.”
It was a curious speech for a woman whose husband frequently uses Twitter to call people losers and taunt them with unflattering nicknames.
WHAT SHE SAID
Melania Trump has largely shunned the campaign spotlight in lieu of spending time with her son, Barron. It was through the mom lens that she addressed the perils of social media during a rare appearance this week in the Philadelphia suburbs encouraging people to vote.
“We need to teach our youth American values: Kindness, honesty, respect, compassion, charity, understanding, cooperation,” she said.
Mrs. Trump went on to say that while social media is a “useful tool” to connect people, “it can have a bad side.” Her primary concern, she said, was children and teenagers who are “fragile.”
“Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers,” she said. She later added: “We have to find a better way to talk to each other, to disagree with each other, to respect each other.”
Mrs. Trump’s speech was timely and addressed a major issue in U.S. culture. Researchers have long sounded alarms on cyberbullying, or the use of online posts or emails that embarrass or taunt victims.
While the problem is particularly acute with children and teens, it’s also a problem among adults. According to a 2014 study by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, 40 percent of adults say they have personally experienced some form of online harassment.
WHY IT WAS ODD
No sooner did Mrs. Trump lament the meanness in U.S. culture did Twitter critics of Trump’s practically trip over themselves to point out the irony.
“Melania’s speech today would be like Bernie Madoff’s wife giving a talk on integrity of investment portfolios and fighting Ponzi schemes,” tweeted ABC’s Matthew Dowd.
Truth teller or bully, Trump will go down in history as the first presidential political candidate who used social media prolifically to hammer his opponents with taunting nicknames and personal insults.
There were, of course, the monikers “Crooked Hillary” Clinton and “Lying Ted Cruz” that frequently populated Trump’s Twitter feed. The GOP nominee liked in particular to make fun of Marco Rubio for being shorter, tweeting that Rubio looked like a “little boy on stage.”
There were others who frequently found themselves the subject of Trump’s tweeting. George Will, the Republican columnist, for example, was “boring” and “dopey.” Vice President Joe Biden was “not very bright.” Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, “choked like a dog.”
Some of his ugliest taunts were reserved for female journalists, including Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, whom he frequently called “bimbo.”
Of Arianna Huffington, a founder of the left-leaning Huffington Post and ex-wife of former California GOP Rep. Michael Huffington, he once tweeted, “How much money is the extremely unattractive (both inside and out) Arianna Huffington paying her poor ex-hubby for the use of his name?”