Melania’s jacket choice for her diplomatic mission yesterday has created a storm of criticism. The FLOTUS traveled to the Mexican border to meet with immigrant children in a detention centre. This was in response to international outcry against the Trump government’s policy of separating these children from their parents (which the President has now u-turned on).
The jacket in question (which she wore for the flight) had the words ‘I really don’t care. Do u?’ written on the back. She then took off the jacket to meet the children, and put it back on, on her way back to Maryland. The jacket is obviously extremely insensitive, so why did she wear it? It wasn’t exactly cold in Maryland – a reporter on the ground confirmed it was 27 degrees Celsius. This suggests that the jacket was a deliberate choice, in spite of Melania’s spokesperson Stephanie Grisham’s claim that it held no hidden message. She said that she hoped the media wouldn’t focus on Melania’s wardrobe, but rather on the purpose of the visit.
However, a tweet from President Trump suggests that that was exactly the intention – to draw attention to the jacket, away from the issue, and to discredit the media in the process. The POTUS (using his usual caps) tweeted: ‘”I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!’
Vox journalist Liz Plank articulates this strategy perfectly: ‘Melania’s jacket is a pristine example of how an authoritarian government operates to delegitimise the press. Please don’t be fooled. This is 100% bait. It’s an effective strategy to get the media to criticise her wardrobe, so that the government can criticise the media for criticising her wardrobe, and delegitimise us as fake news. Shortly after journalists started reporting on the jacket, FLOTUS’ director of communications tweeted a statement criticising the media for not focusing on the children (even creating a hashtag for the jacket!).’
It’s a chillingly brilliant strategy, and seems to be working. If the public takes the bait, the perception becomes that the media are more concerned with clothes than politics, and cannot be relied on to tell the truth. This is alarming, as American journalists are working tirelessly to make sure the truths of the Trump administration (like the reality of immigrant children in detention) actually come to light.
In the words of the editors over at our sister company Marie Claire USA, “Melania knows that more than 2 000 children have been dispersed around the country, after being forcibly separated from their parents, and after being forced to literally live in cages… Re-wearing the jacket when you almost definitely know that it mocks the suffering of thousands of little kids – and let’s not forget that Melania is an immigrant herself! – is disgusting. Particularly if you’re doing it to help your husband’s administration, which is actively using the entire charade as a tool to demonise the media.”