First Lady Melania Trump has reappeared, shutting down wild speculation of her absence.
After more than three weeks out of the public eye while recovering from surgery, the first lady strolled into a White House event Monday for military families and swept away the wild liberal conspiracy theories that she was incapacitated or had otherwise vanished.
The White House did not allow journalists to cover the Gold Star event out of respect for the families, which meant Melania was seen in person only by the 40 or so families and administration officials who attended. Others had to keep an eye on social media.
Video posted on Twitter showed the first lady, who wore a black sleeveless dress and her trademark stilettos, strolling into the East Room accompanied by President Donald Trump. He showed her to a front-row seat across the aisle from Vice President Mike Pence before heading to the microphone.
“She looked beautiful,” said retired Sgt. 1st Class Diana Pike. Pike’s son, Chief Petty Officer Christian Pike, of Peoria, Arizona, died in 2013 from injuries suffered in Afghanistan. “She just looked so beautiful.”
Trump joked about all the conspiracy theories that his wife had supposedly left him but said she was doing fine, Pike said.
The first lady later tweeted several photos of the event, including two of her seated alongside the president.
The #1 snack that shut down Alzheimer’s research [sponsored]
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) June 5, 2018
Mrs. Trump was last seen publicly during the overnight hours of May 10 when she and the president welcomed home three Americans who had been detained in North Korea. Four days later, the White House announced that she had been hospitalized to treat a benign kidney condition.
Public interest in and news media coverage of first ladies exploded during the Obama administration, the first White House to extensively use social media to spread its brand. But first ladies are not elected and technically are still private citizens, and each one gets to tailor the job to suit her.
“She is going to do this job her way,” said Anita McBride, a veteran of three Republican administrations who last served as chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush. “It’s her style and we just have to accept that.”
Mrs. Trump stayed in the hospital for five days and has kept out of public view since returning home May 19. She has been meeting with staff and working on upcoming projects, according to spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham.
Grisham said the Gold Star families’ event was important to Mrs. Trump and had been on her calendar for some time.
NEW: First lady Melania Trump attends White House event honoring Gold Star families in her first public appearance in more than 3 weeks after kidney procedure. https://t.co/tBIJFFuLfp pic.twitter.com/EK42nyuSRG
— ABC News (@ABC) June 4, 2018
Her absence sparked all kinds of wild speculation, but the first lady has shown no interest in making an appearance just to knock down disgusting rumors.
She sent early signals that she will not bow to speculation or public expectations about what she should be doing, despite what the mainstream media may want.
“Mrs. Trump is very strong and independent,” Grisham said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.