No Body Double: Trump Blasts Fake Melania Theories

March 14, 2019 Updated: March 14, 2019

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump is not amused by the #FakeMelania conspiracy theories circulating on social media.

He said on March 13 that if there was a body double of his wife who stepped in to fill her shoes, then it would be the “fake news” that organized it.

Trump alleged on Wednesday in a tweet that photos of his wife had been altered to make them appear as though a look-alike accompanied him to Alabama last week to survey tornado damage.

“Fox & Friends” reported on the body-double theory Wednesday as the show’s hosts weighed in on a discussion that aired Monday on ABC’s “The View.” Hosts of the ABC program debated whether an impostor had traveled with Trump.

“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,” the president tweeted. “They are only getting more deranged with time!”

Hosts of “The View” had commented on how the woman at Trump’s side in photos of the trip appeared shorter than usual and had a different facial structure than the first lady’s. One host allowed that the first lady might have been wearing flat shoes.

In fact, the 5-foot-11 first lady had ditched her customary stilettos for sneakers to walk around the rough terrain with the 6-foot-3 Trump.

A conservative online news organization reported the president’s frustration with press coverage of his wife after an interview on Monday.

President Trump visits tornado-ravaged Alabama
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greet vistors as they land at Fort Benning, Georgia on March 8, 2019. ( Mike Theiler/Reuters)

“If I were a Democrat instead of a Republican, she’d be Jackie O times twenty. Instead, they go after her,” Trump told Breitbart News. Trump was referring to President John F. Kennedy’s wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who often was referred to as “Jackie O” after she remarried following Kennedy’s assassination.

Several factors can influence the way people appear in photos, including the angle at which the photos are taken, the type of camera lens that is used and the positioning of the photographer, said Akili Ramsess, executive director of the National Press Photographers Association.

News images are not to be altered beyond basic toning and cropping, she said.

“Manipulation is against photojournalism ethics,” Ramsess said, adding that most newsrooms follow the ethics guidelines on the association’s website. “Photographers or editors can be fired over such manipulation.”

Trump and Melania
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk from Marine One to board Air Force One at Lawson Army Airfield, Fort Benning, Ga., en route Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., after visiting Lee County, Ala., where tornados killed 23 people, on March 8, 2019. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

The “FakeMelania” hashtag has been around since at least 2017, Trump’s first year in office, with Twitter searches producing numerous photos of the first lady and unfounded commentary that the woman in the images is not Melania Trump.

Trump, Melania visit crosses
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visit a line of crosses at Providence Baptist Church in Smiths Station, Ala., as they tour areas where tornados killed 23 people in Lee County, Ala., on March 8, 2019. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

Toward the end of the debate on “The View,” contributor Ana Navarro-Cardenas, who opposes Trump, said: “Let’s have fun with Melania. She’s beautiful, and we’re doing this in jest.” Abby Huntsman, a Republican on the panel, followed up by asking, “Does that make it better?” That prompted co-host Joy Behar, who also disapproves of Trump, to say: “We’re not here to be better people. We’re here to have a good laugh.”

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman, said the episode “went beyond the petty mean-girl spirit that we’ve grown accustomed to.”

“People died, people lost family, people are hurting in Alabama,” Grisham said Wednesday in an email. “I personally 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.”

An ABC spokesman declined to comment.

The White House has not responded to requests from the media for comment. The questions from the media have implied that Trump should know who is responsible for doctoring the photos and should be able to name them.

By Darlene Superville

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