Melania Trump isn’t standing down from her anti-cyberbullying platform. On Monday, the White House announced the first lady’s new initiative, “Be Best,” which focuses on three issues: online bullying, well-being (“promoting values such as healthy living, encouragement, kindness, and respect”), and opioid abuse.
These are all worthy causes, and no one can argue with the importance of, for example, supporting families and children affected by the country’s opioid crisis. But the first lady’s decision to follow through on her promise to address cyberbullying leaves many perplexed, if not infuriated, by the irony of it all. Does she not know that charity begins at home?
Throughout his theatrical Twitter history, President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked, belittled, or poked fun at perceived political enemies, celebrities, even Kim Jong-un. He called Meryl Streep “overrated,” Rosie O’Donnell a “total loser,” and Oprah “very insecure.”
Some of this feels lost on Melania, who seemingly ignores the behavior in her own house, or the Mar-a-Lago wing, or wherever the president tweets from. When the first lady spoke out against bullying at a U.N. luncheon this past fall, the Twitterverse reacted in complete confusion. Was Melania trolling the American public? people wondered. Still, she has moved forward, officially implementing this cause into her new program, which one might easily presume is her way of sticking it to the administration.
During a White House tech summit in March, the first lady addressed the controversy, telling the tech leaders present, “I’m well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic.” She added, “I have been criticized for my commitment to tackling this issue, and I know that will continue. But it will not stop me from doing what I know is right.”
The initiative promises to help American children speak with “respect and kindness,” despite the fact that their own president seldomly does so when defending his reputation–or ego.
In the initiative introduction, Melania writes:
Technology is constantly evolving. So are the risks associated with it. You can reduce these risks by talking to your kids about how they communicate–online and off–and encouraging them to think critically and act in a way they can be proud of.
Details from the initiative are shared via a “new” digital booklet titled, “Talking with Kids about Being Online.” It’s billed as a collaboration between Melania Trump and the Federal Trade Commission, except it’s nearly identical to an FTC booklet produced in 2014.
The guide defines cyberbullying as “mean-spirited comments” and offers suggestions on how to handle such offenses. “Don’t react to the bully,” it reads. “If your child is targeted by a cyberbully, keep a cool head.”
Let’s hope Melania slips one of these booklets under Trump’s separate bedroom door.