White House blasts 'opposition media' in Melania booklet flap

2018-05-09 09:48
First Lady Melania Trump in Brussels. (Eric Lalmand, Belga via AFP)

First Lady Melania Trump in Brussels. (Eric Lalmand, Belga via AFP)

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The White House attacked "opposition media" on Tuesday for criticising First Lady Melania Trump's use of an Obama-era pamphlet to launch her campaign against online bullying.

It said media were ignoring the positive message of her "Be Best" initiative, launched on Monday, to focus on the fact that she reproduced a nine year old pamphlet from the Federal Trade Commission, with some media suggesting plagiarism.

Stephanie Grisham, the communications director for the first lady, said her initiative "meant to support children and the many issues they are facing today".

"After giving a strong speech that was met with a standing ovation and positive feedback, the focus from opposition media has been on an educational booklet, 'Talking with Kids About Being Online' produced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2009," she said in a statement.

The White House never masked the FTC's role in the publication, but appeared to suggest it was new and that Trump had a hand in it.

The first release online identified it as "a booklet by First Lady Melania Trump and the Federal Trade Commission".

That has since been changed to "a Federal Trade Commission booklet, promoted by First Lady Melania Trump".

Shy about speaking in public, Trump's event on Monday was billed as a major step forward, attaching her name to a social cause like first ladies before her.

"As a mother and first lady, it concerns me that in today's fast-paced and ever connected world, children can be less prepared to express or manage their emotions and oftentimes turn to forms of destructive or addictive behavior," Trump said.

In July 2006, Melania Trump took flak when she delivered a speech at the Republican convention that included lines spoken by then-first lady Michelle Obama years before.

A speechwriter ultimately took the blame, saying she took down quotes Trump said she had "always liked" and then mistakenly included them in the final speech.

FTC official Nathaniel Wood was quoted as saying in the White House statement that the agency was "excited" that Trump was distributing the pamphlet.

"Our office will continue to focus on helping children and I encourage members of the media to attempt to Be Best in their own professions, and focus on some of the children and programs Mrs. Trump highlighted in her remarks yesterday," Grisham concluded.

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