President Trump on Wednesday criticized the media for its coverage of a fringe online theory that a body double was used for first lady Melania Trump during the presidential trip last week to survey tornado damage in Alabama.
But the president may have unintentionally fueled the conspiracy theory by claiming that media outlets manipulated photos of the first lady, when video footage was the source of the wild speculation.
“The Fake News photoshopped pictures of Melania, then propelled conspiracy theories that it’s actually not her by my side in Alabama and other places,” Trump tweeted. “They are only getting more deranged with time!”
If Trump meant what he usually does by “Fake News” — mainstream media organizations that he disagrees with — there’s no evidence of tampering with images of the first lady by any legitimate news outlet.
Conspiracy theories that a stand-in is occasionally used for the first lady date back to at least 2017, when Melania Trump appeared in sunglasses and a raincoat as the president defended his response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
The president’s tweet Wednesday coincided with a “Fox & Friends” segment that criticized ABC’s “The View” for its discussion of the “the fake Melania online conspiracy theory.”
On Tuesday’s episode of “The View,” co-host Joy Behar raised the issue of a Melania body double.
FAKE MELANIA CONSPIRACIES RETURN: The internet is buzzing again with theories that first lady Melania Trump is using an imposter to stand in for her — the co-hosts investigate. https://t.co/f8u2wc159S pic.twitter.com/XNYBT9U6S8— The View (@TheView) March 11, 2019
“Some people think that the first lady is using an imposter,” Behar said, mockingly, before pulling up a tweet that included screengrabs of the first couple side by side in Opelika, Ala., on Friday.
“That one does not look like her, sorry,” Behar said. “I wasn’t going to go along with this, but that one in that picture doesn’t look like her.”
Co-host Sunny Hostin noted that Melania Trump “is a very tall, statuesque woman” yet looked “kind of short” in Alabama. (The first lady, who often wears heels, was wearing sneakers during her tour of the tornado-ravaged region.)
On “Fox & Friends,” contributor Tammy Bruce said the ladies of “The View” were using the conspiracy theory as “an excuse to mock the first lady.”
“This is an excuse to be able to mock her, to say she looks short, her face is a different shape — classic mean-girl environment,” Bruce said, adding that the first lady probably looked different because she was “sad,” given the setting.
Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Melania Trump, called “The View” discussion of a faux first lady “shameful.”
“I’ve always found it sad that a group of women spend so much time attacking another woman, whose only goal is to help children, but yesterday’s episode went beyond the petty mean-girl spirit that we’ve grown accustomed to,” Grisham told the Daily Caller. “I watched the president and first lady hug, listen to and comfort people who had lost everything — and the ‘ladies’ of ‘The View’ instead chose to laugh and joke about a body-double conspiracy.”
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