Almost a month after vanishing from public view, first lady Melania Trump appeared Monday at a White House reception honoring Gold Star families. Her reemergence comes after weeks of rampant speculation about where she’s been since undergoing surgery in mid-May.
Monday’s event was not open to the press but a blurry video shared by a Daily Caller reporter appeared to show the president and the first lady walking into the reception.
The first lady herself tweeted photographs showing her in the audience.
“Thank you to the Gold Star families that joined us in celebration & remembrance,” Trump wrote in the tweet.
The last time the first lady participated in a public event was May 10, when she accompanied the president to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to welcome home three American hostages released by North Korea.
She was admitted to the hospital four days later to undergo surgery for a benign kidney condition. She was hospitalized for five days following the procedure.
Medical experts suggested at the time that the extended hospital stay was atypical for the procedure Trump underwent.
“It may be just out of an abundance of caution and privacy,” Dr. Mohamad Allaf, vice chairman of urology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told CNN. “Certainly, staying a little longer may imply that this is a little bit more of a complex situation.”
Until Monday, the first lady had been out of the public eye for 25 consecutive days. “It is an unusual stretch for one of the most visible women in the world and, according to historians, it is the longest break anyone has taken from the role in modern memory,” reported The New York Times.
Jokes, rumors and conspiracy theories had abounded in the media and online about the first lady’s possible whereabouts. She was cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, some mused. Comedian Conan O’Brien joked last week that she was hiking the Appalachian Trail with him. “Missing Melania” posters were plastered around New York City with the words: “Have you seen this woman?”
A tweet posted on the first lady’s account last week tried to quell some of the rumor-mongering.
“I see the media is working overtime speculating where I am & what I’m doing,” the tweet said. “Rest assured, I’m here [at the White House with] my family, feeling great & working hard on behalf of children & the American people!”
According to CNN, President Trump joked about his wife’s prolonged absence during the Gold Star reception. He said the media had speculated that the first lady may have left him, before pointing out that she was sitting in the front row.
CNN described the joke as “playful, but a bit awkward” given that the event was to honor military families who’d lost relatives at war.
The White House said over the weekend that the first lady will not be traveling with her husband to the G7 meeting in Quebec this week or to Singapore for the June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, told the Times on Monday that it was “pretty typical” for people to avoid travel after undergoing medical procedures.
“Mrs. Trump has always been a strong and independent woman who puts her family, and certainly her health, above all else, and that won’t change over a rabid press corps,” Grisham said. “She’s confident in what she is doing and in her role, and knows the rest is just speculation and nonsense.”