First lady Melania Trump on Monday condemned last week’s violent attack by a pro-Donald Trump mob on the U.S. Capitol that left multiple people dead — and criticized “unwarranted personal attacks” and “false misleading accusations” against her that she did not detail.
She said she was praying for the families of the six individuals whose deaths were related to the attacks, which came after the president urged followers in town to protest his loss in the 2020 election to go to the Capitol to interrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
“I am disappointed and disheartened with what happened last week. I find it shameful that surrounding these tragic events there has been salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks, and false misleading accusations on me – from people who are looking to be relevant and have an agenda,” the first lady wrote.
“Make no mistake about it, I absolutely condemn the violence that has occurred on our Nation’s Capitol. Violence is never acceptable,” she added.
It was the first time the first lady has weighed in on the attack. Her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, resigned on the day of the attacks, as did her social secretary, Anna Cristina Niceta.
The first lady did not specify to what “salacious gossip” she was referring.
The president had, in the hours before the Wednesday attack, erroneously told the pro-Trump crowd that Vice President Mike Pence, who was at the certification vote, could stop it, adding that he would “never concede.” He then directed the mob to the Capitol, where they broke windows, breached police barriers and scaled facades to enter the building. The rioters brought a makeshift gallows and chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” as they ransacked the building. Shortly after the vote was interrupted, the president tweeted that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”
Once the Capitol was secured, Congress resumed voting Wednesday evening and Biden was certified the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Some lawmakers who had said they would oppose certification reversed course after the deadly riot.
The first lady said she was praying for the families of those who died due to the attack. Capitol Police shot Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, was wearing a Trump flag as a cape, as fellow rioters chanting anti-police slurs hoisted her up to a broken interior window off the room where lawmakers vote. Rioter Benjamin Phillips, founder of a pro-Trump social media site, died after a medical emergency, as did Kevin Greeson and Roseanne Boyland. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was injured — bludgeoned by rioters with a fire extinguisher, according to the New York Times — and died after returning to his office. Fellow Officer Howard Liebengood died several days after the violent melee, reportedly by suicide.
It was not until Sunday that the president ordered flags be flown at half staff to honor the slain officers.
The president, as the riot was unfolding, praised his supporters on Twitter but asked them to disperse from the Capitol. His account was locked by the social media platform. On Friday, Twitter permanently disabled the president’s account for glorifying violence after he tweeted about the “75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me” and said they “will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” A series of accounts linked to the president and his campaign were subsequently locked or disabled by Twitter as Trump attempted to circumvent his ouster from the platform.
The first lady said on Monday it is “inspiring” that so many “found a passion and enthusiasm” for voter participation but “we must not allow that passion to turn to violence.”
Melania Trump’s most high-profile project as first lady was Be Best, which among other things advocated for protecting children from online bullying. She has not, to date, condemned the president’s frequent use of social media platforms throughout his presidency and campaigns to name-call and bully his critics.