First lady Melania Trump. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

First lady Melania Trump on Thursday echoed her husband’s criticism of an anonymously penned New York Times op-ed critical of President Trump, accusing the unnamed Trump administration official who wrote it of “cowardly actions.”

“If a person is bold enough to accuse people of negative actions, they have a responsibility to publicly stand by their words and people have the right to be able to defend themselves,” she said in a statement. “To the writer of the [op-ed] — you are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions.”

That follows an unleashed wave of fury from the president over the op-ed, which depicted him as dangerously amoral and saved only from his worst instincts by aides engaged in a “resistance.” Trump on Wednesday called the writer “gutless” and called for him or her to be turned over to the government.

In the statement Thursday, the first lady decried the practice of anonymous sourcing in news reports more generally, something her husband often rails against (though the president himself has been an anonymous source to news reporters, and sometimes posed as a spokesman for himself under the pseudonyms John Barron and John Miller).

But Mrs. Trump struck a different note than her often-bellicose husband, prefacing her criticism by proclaiming the importance of first-amendment freedoms. “Freedom of speech is an important pillar of our nation’s founding principles and a free press is important to our democracy,” the first lady said. “The press should be fair, unbiased and responsible.”

President Trump often refers to the “fake news media” and has called for restrictions on the press.

Interestingly, the statement about the op-ed came from the first lady herself. More commonly, her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham issues statements on behalf of the first lady.

Here is the first lady’s statement in full:

Freedom of speech is an important pillar of our nation’s founding principles and a free press is important to our democracy. The press should be fair, unbiased and responsible.

Unidentified sources have become the majority of the voices people hear about in today’s news. People with no names are writing our nation’s history. Words are important, and accusations can lead to severe consequences. If a person is bold enough to accuse people of negative actions, they have a responsibility to publicly stand by their words and people have the right to be able to defend themselves.

To the writer of the oped — you are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions.