Monday 20 August 2018

Melania back in the White House spotlight

First lady Melania Trump greeted the Gold Star group. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
First lady Melania Trump greeted the Gold Star group. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Nick Allen in Washington

Melania Trump has attended her first public engagement after more than three weeks out of the public eye.

The first lady's appearance at the event for military families, her first public engagement since a kidney procedure last month, came after it emerged she would not accompany her husband to the G7 summit in Canada, or the Singapore meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The White House did not allow journalists to cover the Gold Star event out of respect for the families, which meant Ms Trump was seen only by the 40 or so families and administration officials who attended.

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 Sergeant Diana Pike.

Her son, Chief Petty Officer Christian Pike, died in 2013 from injuries suffered in Afghanistan. "She just looked so beautiful."

Ms Trump told the families: "To all those who have lost loved ones in service to our country, our nation grieves with you.

"It is a solemn reminder that we, the American people, are able to live as freely as we do because of the selfless sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.

"We remain indebted to each of them and we honour them today, together, with their families."

Ms Trump's absence out of the spotlight had fuelled wild speculation as to her whereabouts - to which Mr Trump alluded in his remarks.

Mr Trump joked about all the speculation that his wife had supposedly left him but said she was doing fine, Sgt Pike said.

The first lady later tweeted several photos of the event, including two of her seated alongside the president.

Before Monday night, Ms Trump's last public appearance was on May 10 when she accompanied her husband to Andrews Air Force Base to welcome home three Americans who had been held prisoner in North Korea.

On May 14 she was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Maryland for the kidney procedure.

Ms Trump underwent an embolisation, frequently used to cut off the flow of blood to a tumour or growth.

The White House has given few details of the condition but has said it was "benign". She returned to the White House on May 19.

The first lady's popularity was on the rise, according to a recent poll, growing more comfortable in the spotlight, hosting her first official state dinner and announcing formal initiatives.

Irish Independent

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