A brief history of potential first ladies who have had images of their naked bodies published on the front page of a newspaper during an election season: Melania Trump on Sunday’s New York Post.
The word “shocking” is thrown around in politics more often than a Frisbee on a college campus, but Sunday’s New York Post cover arguably deserves the distinction.
It features a photo of Melania Trump, completely nude, with stars over her nipples. Her hands rest between her bare legs. Its screaming, all-caps headline reads, “The Ogle Office.”
A line at the bottom of the page reads, “You’ve never seen a potential First Lady like this!”
That is not an incorrect statement. The closest approximation is when Settimio Garritano, member of the paparazzi, took unauthorized photos of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sunbathing nude on Skorpios Island in 1971 — years after President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.
The only thing more shocking than the Post’s cover might be what appears in its late edition: a photo of a nude Melania, being held suggestively by another naked woman, who is nuzzling the potential first lady’s neck. Black strips are drawn over their nipples.
Adding to the oddity of the cover is the fact that the New York Post endorsed Donald Trump in April. (Then again, maybe it’s not that surprising. The editorial announcing his endorsement stated, “His political incorrectness is one of his great attractions — it proves he’s not one of ‘them.'”)
The photos were originally taken for and published in a 1996 edition of Max magazine, a defunct French magazine. Accompanying their republication in the New York Post is an interview with Alé de Basseville, the photographer who took the photos.
(Note: Because of the graphic nature of the photographs, The Washington Post has chosen not to link to the New York Post articles. They can be found easily with a Google search.)
“I think it is important to show the beauty and the freedom of the woman, and I am very proud of these pictures because they celebrate Melania’s beauty,” de Basseville told the tabloid.
When asked about the photo with another woman, de Basseville said, “I always loved women together, because I have been with a lot of women who desired the ménage à trois.”
He added, “This is beauty and not porn.”
In a statement to the New York Post, Donald Trump said, “Melania was one of the most successful models and she did many photo shoots, including for covers and major magazines. This was a picture taken for a European magazine prior to my knowing Melania. In Europe, pictures like this are very fashionable and common.”
Jason Miller, the Trump campaign’s senior communications adviser, appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” where he described the photos as “art” and claimed that there’s no cause for embarrassment and that Melania is “beautiful.”
“These were photos that were 20 years before Mrs. Trump met Mr. Trump,” Miller said. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about with the photos. They’re a celebration of the human body as art.
“She’s a beautiful woman,” Miller said.
The photos sent the Internet into a downright tizzy.
Gawker speculated that Trump himself leaked the photographs to take the spotlight away from his back-and-forth with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of a Muslim American soldier who was killed in Iraq. Implausible? Who knows with Trump?
Many, though, were simply outraged, citing the republication of the photos as misogyny, a cheap blow that has nothing to do with politics.
Emily Tamkin, a writer for Slate, called the cover “trashy” and said none of the aforementioned quotes “make this cover acceptable.”
A woman should be able to agree to take naked photos for a European magazine in her twenties with the expectation that they will not show up on the cover of a newspaper/tabloid some 20 years later under the headline “Ogle Office” when her husband decides to run for president.
Many Twitter users seemed to agree.
“I am appalled and outraged by The New York Post’s Melania Trump cover,” tweeted one user, added “Misogyny is misogyny.” “Just saw that New York Post cover. Ugh, trash,” tweeted another. A third: “Printing Melania Trump’s naked pics is vile.”
Of course, this is not the first time racy photos of Melania Trump have surfaced.
GQ recently republished a photo shoot featuring Melania Trump from 2000 that included nude shots of the potential first lady, though these were carefully arranged to cover her most personal of areas. The photos were then used by the anti-Trump super PAC Make America Awesome in an attack meme, GQ reported.