This post has been updated.
Melania Trump is demanding a retraction and apology after People magazine published reporter Natasha Stoynoff's first-person account of being pinned against a wall and kissed by Donald Trump when she interviewed both Trumps at Mar-a-Lago in 2005.
It is no surprise that the would-be first lady is pushing back against the article. After being profiled by GQ in April, she blasted the story as “yet another example of the dishonest media and their disingenuous reporting.” When the Daily Mail and several blogs picked up an unsubstantiated report about Melania Trump in a Slovenian magazine in August, she demanded retractions through an attorney, Charles Harder — and got them. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has asked the New York Times to retract a report about two other alleged incidents of sexual assault.
This is how the Trumps roll.
What makes Melania Trump's beef with People so amazing is that the list she and Harder compiled of supposedly “fictionalized” material has nothing to do with Stoynoff's assault claim. At all.
A demand letter sent to the magazine focuses entirely on a minor anecdote, near the end of the article, in which Stoynoff describes running into Melania Trump on a street in New York several months after the alleged assault.
Here is an excerpt from the letter:
We therefore demand that you immediately and permanently remove each of these statements from the story and print a prominent retraction and apology:
The true facts are these: Mrs. Trump did not encounter Ms. Stoynoff on the street, nor have any conversation with her. The two are not friends and were never friends or even friendly. At the time in question, Mrs. Trump would not have even recognized Ms. Stoynoff if they had encountered one another on the street.
To review: Melania Trump is not disputing Stoynoff's claim that Donald Trump assaulted her. Melania Trump is disputing Stoynoff's claim that the two women had a chance encounter on a city street several months later.
Is this for real? It's almost as if Melania Trump is trolling her own husband — rejecting the defamatory notion that she would be friendly with, or even recognize, a reporter, while declining to challenge the idea that Donald Trump stuck his tongue down the throat of the same journalist.
(Update: In an Oct. 17 interview on CNN, Melania Trump repeated her claim that she did not meet Stoynoff on a street in New York and claimed the whole article was "discredited." A day later, People said one of Stoynoff's friends was an eye witness to the chance encounter. The magazine also published the accounts of five people who say Stoynoff told them about Trump's attack shortly after it happened.)
In Stoynoff's telling, Melania Trump was not present at the moment when Donald Trump attacked: She had gone upstairs to change into another outfit. It would mean little for Melania Trump to say she did not witness the alleged assault because no one is claiming she did.
But Melania Trump could try to cast doubt on Stoynoff's claim by countering other details in the reporter's account of the visit. Melania Trump could say she was not absent long enough for an assault to have occurred or say that Stoynoff's claim is not credible because her whole recollection of the interview is full of holes.
Melania Trump did not say any of those things. Melania Trump also has not disputed the account of Mindy McGillivray, who told the Palm Beach Post that when Donald Trump made a pass at her during a party in 2003, Melania caught him in the act.
“And she whips the shawl behind her neck and storms off into the bathroom,” McGillivray said of Melania Trump.
The letter to People is not an admission that Donald Trump assaulted Stoynoff, but it is not a denial, either. Melania Trump has a reputation to protect. Her own.