The Trump-vs-Greta Thunberg conflict continued Friday after first lady Melania Trump responded to accusations of anti-bullying hypocrisy by issuing a statement about her husband’s tweet attacks on the Swedish climate-activist teenager.
Greta Thunberg, 16, “who travels the globe giving speeches,” isn’t the same as her son Barron Trump, “a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy,” she said in the statement, according to The Associated Press.
The statement also acknowledged that she and President Donald Trump “communicate differently.”
The first lady was silent this week after the president mocked Thunberg, telling her in a tweet that she should “work on her anger management” and “chill” out. He was dismissive of Thunberg after she was named Time’s Person of the Year Thursday.
The first lady’s critics on Twitter then chastised her for saying nothing even though last week she responded angrily to what she perceived as bullying of Barron, when his name came up during an impeachment hearing.
The first lady’s signature Be Best initiative includes campaigning against bullying of children on social media.
As the criticism continued Friday, the White House responded with a statement issued by spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham.
In it, the first lady made a distinction between Thunberg, who has become world famous, and Barron, the president’s youngest child, who is rarely seen and never heard under media rules for covering presidential children under 18.
“BeBest is the First Lady’s initiative, and she will continue to use it to do all she can to help children. It is no secret that the President and First Lady often communicate differently — as most married couples do. Their son is not an activist who travels the globe giving speeches. He is a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy,” Grisham’s statement said.
The statement echoed Trump’s sharp scolding in a tweet last week, something she seldom does on social media or in public, in contrast to her husband.
She addressed the tweet to Pamela Karlan, a law professor whose testimony on impeachment included an awkward pun on Barron’s name. Karlan later apologized. Trump was not mollified.
“A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics,” Trump tweeted soon after the testimony. “Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”
Trump’s statement Friday did little to calm the disapproval on Twitter, where critics renewed their mocking of the first lady’s stance.
“I gave Melania respect and the benefit of the doubt but no longer. With this statement, which she never had to say, @FLOTUS is now just a bad as the people her “BeBest” campaign derides. She was upset about Barron, but gives no thought to the feelings of Greta’s mother,” tweeted a user named Karen.
Trump has been taking heat on Twitter on a variety of issues related to Trump administration’s policies. The common link is the accusation that she is hypocritical in making the well-being of children her signature issue while seeming to ignore what foes consider egregious examples of threats to children by the administration.
Thus, her rare fit of pique over the mention of her son’s name was not well-received except by Trump supporters on social media and by Republicans on the House committee taking testimony on impeachment.
Last week, as the first lady and the president prepared to light the National Christmas Tree, Twitter foes heaped contempt for her lack of public outrage for a teen boy apparently allowed to die without care in immigration custody, and the pending removal of nearly 700,000 people from the food stamps program.
The president has been critical of Thunberg before – she is a climate activist, he is a climate-change skeptic – but he seemed to be especially annoyed after she was named Time’s Person of the Year.
He was named the magazine’s Person of the Year in 2016 after the election and has criticized the magazine for passing him up in the years since. He said on Twitter it was “so ridiculous” Thunberg was named.
As a result, on Thursday, after the president’s mocking tweets, the first lady’s Be Best campaign was trending online.