On Main Line, Melania Trump Vows to Fight Bullying

The potential First Lady delivered her first speech since her controversial one at the RNC. It was about online bullying — and how she'd fight to clean up social media.

Melania Trump

Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks at the Main Line Sports Center in Berwyn on Thursday | AP Photo: Patrick Semansky

Melania Trump will be taking away her husband’s phone if he becomes president.

Every First Lady has a cause. Eleanor Roosevelt fought for civil rights. Nancy Reagan told kids to just say no. Hillary Clinton tried to make us healthier with healthcare; Michelle Obama tried to make us healthier by exercise. Melania Trump said one of her “main focuses” as First Lady of the United States would be to fight online bullying.

Well, what better way to do so then by taking away the phone of the man who’s insulted 282 people, places and things on Twitter alone!

I kid, I kid. But “we should fight online bullying” was the major takeaway from Melania Trump’s first speech since the Republican National Convention at the Main Line Sports Center in Berwyn on Thursday afternoon.

“Technology has changed our universe,” Melania said. “But like anything that is powerful, it can have a bad side. We have seen this already. As adults, many of us are able to handle mean words — even lies. Children and teenagers can be fragile. They are hurt when they are made fun of, or made to feel less in looks and intelligence.

“This makes their life hard and can force them to hide or retreat. Our culture has gotten too mean or too rough. It is never okay when a 12-year-old boy is mocked or bullied or attacked. It is absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone with no name hiding on the internet.”

That’s certainly an admirable goal. Kids shouldn’t be harassed online. But as a late-stage campaign push for Donald Trump, Melania’s speech was brief and bizarre. Nothing that Trump has said in this campaign has made him sound like a person who wants to “find a better way to help to talk to each other, to disagree with each other, to respect each other,” in Melania’s words. It would be like if, before Michelle Obama told kids to run some laps around a track, Barack were nearby sitting on a couch eating a pizza.

When Julia Ioffe profiled Melania for GQ, she was harassed online by anti-Semites — for an article that was not very critical. “I don’t control my fans,” Melania said of the abuse, “but I don’t agree with what they’re doing. I understand what you mean, but there are people out there who maybe went too far. She provoked them.”

Melania’s speech was her first since one during the 2016 Republican National Convention, in which several passages were plagiarized from current First Lady Michelle Obama. Today’s speech undoubtedly went better — but whether it helped the campaign much seems unlikely.

After coming out to “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by The Fifth Dimension — she is a Taurus, incidentally — Melania told the crowd of Donald’s love for the country. She said he got “very angry” whenever he heard of a factory closing. “Love for this country is something we immediately shared when I met Donald,” which sounds like a really boring first date.

“America meant: If you could dream it, you could become it,” Melania said. “It will be my honor and privilege to serve this country. I will be an advocate for women and for children.”

Of course Melania loves America. She is a classic immigrant success story, as American as mom, baseball, Apple pie, and assholes on Twitter. But earlier in the day, The New York Times wrote that Melania would try to “smooth [her] husband’s rough edges” in the speech. Did she? Maybe. But talking about fighting online bullies, without a proposal on how to do so, doesn’t really seem to mean much for Trump’s presidential campaign. Aren’t some of his most passionate fans the kind of people who like online bullying? Isn’t most of Twitter just a game to see who is the funniest bully?

The Clinton campaign pointed out the apparent disconnect between Melania’s speech and Trump’s rhetoric, holding a morning press conference to retort Melania’s speech hours before she even said it. “Melania Trump is trying to convince you that Donald Trump is a friend of women, but everyone here today knows that is simply false,” Chester County commissioner Kathi Cozzone said. “As the mother of a teenage son, I worry about the example Donald Trump sets for our children. How, under a president Trump, could we raise our kids to be kind and respectful when they see Donald Trump doing the exact opposite?”