The news of her declining popularity came as Trump sat down for a Wednesday interview with Sean Hannity — a close ally of her husband’s — and went after the same targets President Trump routinely derides: the media, journalists who have written books about her, and even comedians who make her a frequent punchline.
Hannity’s questions, unsurprisingly, were mostly of the softball variety. Asked by the pundit what has been the hardest thing she’s had to deal with, Trump went to her husband’s go-to punching bags.
“I would say the opportunists who are using my name or my family name to advance themselves," she answered. "From comedians, to journalists, to performers, book writers ...”
Asked if that “hurt,” Trump sounded as though she had taken another page from her husband’s script, where the term “fake news” is a recurring phrase.
“It doesn’t hurt," she said. "The problem is they’re writing the history and it’s not correct.”
Trump’s 43 percent approval rating is just slightly higher than that of her husband, of whom 42.6 percent of people polled said they had a favorable opinion, according to an aggregate compiled by FiveThirtyEight. Previously, the first lady has enjoyed significantly more public approval than President Trump, a dynamic that had led some observers to say she was effective in representing the softer side of his administration.
In the past two months, the first lady has taken a higher-visibility role, traveling solo to Africa and speaking about her platform, Be Best. But she has drawn criticism, including for wearing a pith helmet on her trip abroad and for calling herself perhaps “the most bullied person” in the world.
In the Hannity interview, Trump indicated she wouldn’t be swayed by public opinion of her.
“I know I will get the criticism from the public or from the media,” she said. “But I will do what is right and what I feel is right for the country and for the people.”
Trump also addressed speculation about her marriage using a familiar lament about the media: “They like to focus on the gossip, and I would like that they focus on the substance, not just about nonsense.”
The Hannity interview is the second televised interview the often-reticent Trump has granted since coming to the White House. The rare sit-down took place on the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier as Hannity accompanied Melania Trump during several military events Wednesday otherwise closed to press, including meeting with service members and their families at Washington’s Joint Base Anacostia‐Bolling and Joint Base Langley‐Eustis in Hampton, Va.
Trump has previously taken issue with media coverage of her. Her public concern about how she is depicted in books written about her husband’s administration, though, is a fresh complaint. In “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff wrote that she cried the night her husband was elected. And although Bob Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House” depicts affection between the first lady and her husband, it also says the couple “never really seemed to merge their lives.”
In the interview, Melania Trump reiterated the role she has previously said she plays behind the scenes with her often-blustery husband. Asked whether the president takes her advice on toning down his style, the first lady laughed.
“Well, we could see it,” she said. “I don’t agree with his tone sometimes, and tell him that. ... I said to him, ‘I don’t think you need to be that out.’ On the end, it’s his decision. He knows the consequences. He’s an adult. But he’s a fighter. He’s the fighter.”
And Hannity asked how she felt about a second term for her husband. “The country does best ever," she said. “I want that the country to continue to do well.”
“He wants to govern the right way.” she said later. “It’s tough because the media wants to bash and focus on negativity.”
The interview comes amid an unusually busy week for the first lady. On Tuesday, she also visited Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, where she delivered books as part of a Toys for Tots event hosted by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
And on Thursday, she planned to read to patients at Children’s National hospital in Washington, following a 60-plus-year tradition of first ladies making holiday visits there.