Melania Trump should have had 2020 off. The coronavirus was supposed to be her excuse to kick back, relax and use the pandemic as a reason to not worry about hosting holiday events at the White House. But there will be as many as 20 Christmas events this year, despite Covid-19. What I want to know is: Who bullied Melania into doing all this Christmas stuff?
One of the few joys we’ve had during the Trump administration has been learning how warped Melania’s tastes are when it comes to jolly Christmastime fun.
We know how much she resents this particular part of her duty as first lady. And yet one of the few joys we’ve had during the Trump administration has been learning how warped Melania’s tastes are when it comes to jolly Christmastime fun. Besides being extremely extra in her aesthetic, her White House Christmas decorations have trended Victorian — but less in the “A Christmas Carol” sense, with the waistcoats and bonnets and the carol singing, and more in the “this mansion is possessed by the ghost of a vengeful spinster abandoned at the altar at Yuletide” sense.
Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz of New York Magazine’s The Cut perfectly illustrated this trend Monday when she gave readers a look back at Melania’s holiday décor “ranked from most to least haunted.” The top slot went to 2018, when the East Wing was ceremoniously lined with blood-red trees, invoking a visceral horror scene.
While this year’s fare is much tamer, it’s still worth wondering why she had to go through the trouble at all. This fall, America learned that Melania does not enjoy Christmas, at least not at the White House. We know this thanks to her former friend and staffer Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, whose tell-all book came out in September. In October, she was still making the rounds to promote it. And this time, she came with audio, a conversation with Melania that she’d secretly recorded in July 2018.
In a clip that aired on CNN, the first lady was heard sounding a lot like her husband as she railed about how the media covers her. She also lamented that she was forced to take charge of the White House Christmas decorations.
“I’m working like — my ass off — on Christmas stuff, you know?” Melania could be heard saying. “Who gives a f— about Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?
“Then I do it,” she continued. “And I say that I’m working on Christmas planning for the Christmas. And they said, ‘Oh, what about the children that they were separated?’ Give me a f—ing break. Where they were saying anything when Obama did that?”
We got precious little time to savor the audio before the 2020 news cyclone swept it away. Within hours of her diatribe’s having become public, President Donald Trump announced that he and Melania had tested positive for Covid-19. But we had just enough time to gift us with this banger of a remix from YouTubers The Gregory Brothers.
Thankfully, Melania recovered fully, leaving her able-bodied enough to take up the Christmas decoration reins once again. But the question remains: Who’s making Melania do all of this in the middle of a pandemic? Is this her just going along with her duty, or was it deemed a political matter and thus outside her ability to turn down?
Those in the West Wing seem to be using the multiple Christmas parties as a final act of defiance, snubbing their noses at the nattering nabobs of negativity who think it’s a bad idea to host large events in the middle of a pandemic.
Who’s making Melania do all of this in the middle of a pandemic?
“If you can loot businesses, burn down buildings, engage in protests, you can also go to a Christmas party. You can celebrate the holiday of Christmas, and you can do it responsibly,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Wednesday.
Melania’s chief of staff, former White House deputy press secretary Stephanie Grisham, was a bit more circumspect when asked about safety precautions. “Guests will enjoy food individually plated by chefs at plexiglass-protected food stations,” she said in a statement.
“All passed beverages will be covered. All service staff will wear masks and gloves to comply with food safety guidelines. Attending the parties will be a very personal choice,” she said. “It is a longstanding tradition for people to visit and enjoy the cheer and iconic décor of the annual White House Christmas celebrations.”
And it isn’t just the White House. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo risked being boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart by his staffers this year. After warning his subordinates at various State Department missions not to hold holiday events, Pompeo is going full Mr. Fezziwig this year; The Washington Post reported that at least 900 invitations have gone out for Pompeo’s entirely indoor parties.
All in all, it’s par for the course for this administration. For the last nine months, Trump and his top lieutenants have refused to set any kind of example for Americans looking for some guidance about how to cope with the pandemic. Instead, the administration and the campaign hosted what appear to have been multiple super-spreader events and utterly ignored guidelines for mask-wearing and social distancing. As medical professionals warn against gathering for Christmas, the White House’s fetes continue.
So, who did it? Who bullied the Trump administration’s chief anti-bullying advocate into hosting one more year’s worth of Christmas stuff? If I had to guess — and this is, in fact, a total guess — I’d put my money on White House chief of staff Mark Meadows as being the Ghost of Christmas Present. Meadows, while not running the tightest ship, is big on the schmoozing that Christmas parties in Washington invite. And he’s been right there along with Trump in terms of skepticism about preventing the spread of Covid-19, despite having tested positive himself in November.
Ah well, this is the last year that Melania will have to worry about being drafted to fight in the War on Christmas — at least for a while. This time next year, it will be Jill Biden’s turn to throw the soirees, but ’til then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.