- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 27, 2018

Much of the press coverage of first lady Melania Trump has descended from mere criticism and speculation to downright scandal mongering. The American public is not buying it, if recent poll numbers are a gauge.

Since December, Mrs. Trump has garnered very respectable favorability ratings. Gallup found that 54 percent of the nation gave her a thumbs up. CNN reported her positive rating to be 47 percent while an Economist YouGov survey gave her a 48 percent.

In the year since she became first lady, Mrs. Trump poll numbers have risen from 17 to 37 percentage points over the months, depending on the poll. Some news organizations have acknowledged this.

Both Fox News and The Hill recently ran nearly identical headlines which read “Melania Trump’s popularity soars” and “Melania Trump’s popularity climbs.” AOL News also reported the first lady’s “surging popularity.”

Such positive sentiment has continued for months, despite hostile press coverage which appears to have escalated.

“The laundry list of salacious and flat-out false reporting about Mrs. Trump by tabloid publications and TV shows has seeped into “main stream media” reporting. She is focused on her family and role as FLOTUS — not the unrealistic scenarios being peddled daily by the fake news,” Stephanie Grisham, director of communications for the first lady, tweeted on Friday night.

Some observers also cite a double standard at work.

“Why won’t liberal feminists defend Nikki Haley and Melania Trump? The increasingly unhinged hatred by many on the left — especially in the ‘unbiased’ and ‘professional’ mainstream media — knows no line it will not cross to attack, smear and try to delegitimize the presidency of Donald Trump,” asked Douglas MacKinnon in a New York Daily News op-ed published Friday.

“But in disrespecting first lady Melania Trump and attempting to defame the reputation of United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, the hatred has shifted into a very dark and shameful place,” Mr. MacKinnon said, referring to the latest round of rumors which suggested Mrs. Haley is having an affair with President Trump.

“Where are former first ladies Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama — both avowed feminists — in defense of Melania Trump? Where are former U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations Madeleine Albright and Samantha Power in defense of Nikki Haley? Where are Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Jane Fonda, Joy Behar and other ‘celebrity’ feminists in defense of these two women?” asked Mr. MacKinnon, a former White House and Pentagon official, and an author.

On the global stage, Mrs. Trump has proved to be an admirable and able representative of the U.S., appearing with grace and dignity in public, whether it is a state occasion or a visit to those affected by recent natural disasters.

“This has been a year filled with many wonderful moments. I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet throughout our great country and the world!” Mrs. Trump said in a tweet marking her year in the White House.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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