It began with a guy who sells hemp syrup for a living.
Joe Vargas speculated on Twitter that the woman standing next to President Trump as he prepared to travel to a Secret Service training center in Maryland — call her Woman X — was not, in fact, Trump’s wife, Melania. It was instead some mystery woman, outfitted with big sunglasses and long hair (a wig????) and told to stand next to the president. “Mind blowing,” Vargas said.
Oh, and, in case you think, “Hmm. That actually looks like Melania” — Vargas would like you to know that you are wrong, and he has proof. To wit:
And in case you’re still thinking, “Uhh, those are photos of the same person” — some other people that were replying to Vargas have even more proof.
We rest our case, your honor. We may now move on to wondering, who is Woman X? And more important: Why?
Well, having deployed the vast resources of The Washington Post (namely, me) to address questions, we can now say with certainty that we know the answers.
Woman X is no other than … Melania Trump. And why is she standing there? Because she is the president’s wife, and sometimes she travels with him to places.
Let’s first address Vargas’s definitive proof, in the form of those side-by-side photos above. The photo on the right, Woman X, seems to bear a strong resemblance to Melania Trump (because she is Melania Trump).
But we can go further. As is often the case with the president of the United States there were multiple media outlets present when Trump was speaking, and, therefore, multiple angles of photos and videos.
So, from Bloomberg, we have this: A photo of Woman X without the shades — and looking an awful lot like Melania Trump.
As for the height difference, it’s less dramatic in that photo, but there’s also another explanation: Unlike in the photos from the inauguration, on the day in question Melania was wearing flats.
All of which leads us to our conclusion about the identity of the mystery woman.
What’s particularly weird about this whole thing, of course, is that there’s no reason that Trump would want to have a stand-in for Melania Trump at this event. Why would Trump/the White House go to the trouble of hiring someone to impersonate Melania, dress her up like the first lady and then hope that no one notices? What’s the perceived benefit? I’m sure that being first lady is, at times, a drag, but Melania Trump certainly didn’t have to make an appearance during a trip to a training facility in Maryland. There’s no reason to create a doppelganger.
Part of the embrace of this theory is driven by people having a lark, certainly. How sincere Vargas is, we don’t know; that his Twitter username is currently a URL to a business suggests that he’s perhaps not entirely sincere. But part of it, too, is the tendency Americans have these days to assume the worst, most nefarious things about their political opponents, no matter how far afield from what seems logical. Or, even, because it’s so far afield. These days, the more outrageous the idea, it seems, the more likely it is to meet with adherents. I mean: Pizzagate.
One accolade is in order: Vargas has succeeded in introducing the least credible rumor about the Trump White House that we’ve seen yet. Yes, it has slipped past The Secret Service Agent With The Fake Arms.
The next step in this process, if you’re curious: This article becomes part of the proof that Woman X is indeed not Melania Trump — after all, why else would the Mainstream Media™ spend its energy trying to rebut the theory?
Thoroughly exhausted by the past two years, we can only say: good question.