But for every question about Melania Trump’s past, there’s another question worth asking about the proper role of the media in covering it. Is it okay to hit Melania for her immigration record, even though she’s not the one running for president? Is it okay to hit her for posing naked 25 years ago, immigration aside?
Over the course of the Trump campaign, Melania has been held up as the poster girl for immigration-gone-right. That ties into Donald Trump’s own immigration policy, from his proposed ban on Muslims to his big, beautiful wall on the Mexican border. Melania, the argument goes, is the good kind of immigrant. She and her husband have said time and time again that she followed all the rules, and that immigrants who act differently do not have the same right to remain in the country. This isn’t a question only of Melania’s personal history, but also of Donald’s presidential platform.
Then there are the photos. Some say the snapshots have everything to do with prurience and nothing to do with policy. Melania Trump is not running for president – so the media should only hold her to account when it’s relevant to what her husband would do to the country.
Certainly, the New York Post was crude to plaster the photos across its cover and its pages. And certainly, the primary focus should be on policy. But when it comes to publications writing about the photos, a potential first lady should expect to endure some of the spotlight. In this case, the spotlight isn’t shining on an area that was particularly dark in the first place: Melania Trump’s photos were public when she took them.
No one would – or, at least, no one should – argue that, if more misconduct or further infidelities on Bill Clinton’s part were unearthed, the media should leave it alone. Even the former president’s illicit liaisons with Monica Lewinsky, though old news, should be fair game for news outlets seeking to inform the populace about the people they’re responsible for putting in office – or keeping out of it.
Melania is a big girl. Unlike a candidate’s child, who has no choice in the matter, she signed a contract with Donald Trump the day she married him. If she didn’t want to deal with media scrutiny, she could also have decided not to involve herself in her husband’s campaign. Instead, Melania Trump chose to make herself very, very visible – taking the stage at the Republican convention to say in her own words, and some of Michelle Obama’s, why her husband should be president.
First lady, typically, is a head of state role. The fact that Melania Trump posed nude in the ’90s might not bother many Americans. Maybe it shouldn’t. The same goes for Bill Clinton’s gallivanting. But voters do have a right to consider what kind of person is representing the country – in the East Wing as well as the West.