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Melania Trump ‘I Don’t Care’ Jacket Was Weird Jab at Ivanka

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Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Former First Lady Melania Trump is a mysterious woman. Why is she skipping almost all of her husband’s 2024 campaign events? Did she really think those blood-red pine trees looked Christmasy? Did Donald Trump really call her “Mercedes” at CPAC? (No, as it turns out, but the fact that people found this plausible is telling.) And why did she wear a $39 Zara jacket emblazoned with the phrase “I Really Don’t Care Do U?” during a 2018 trip to visit child migrants at the border? To paraphrase Melania’s (also mysterious) tweet about a beluga whale, “What was she thinking?”

A forthcoming book offers a new yet still confusing explanation: She was trying to insult Ivanka Trump.

Over the years, we’ve heard contradictory explanations for Melania’s most notorious moment as First Lady. Initially, the Trump administration claimed it didn’t mean anything at all. “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message,” said Melania’s spokesperson.

But several hours later, the president himself tweeted that it was actually a dig at the press:

Melania stuck to that explanation in an ABC News interview months later, saying she wore the jacket “for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me. And I want to show them that I don’t care.”

However, in her 2021 memoir, Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s former White House press secretary, said blaming the press was just a cover story the president came up with after the whole thing exploded. She insisted that Melania, an immigrant herself, was genuinely concerned about the migrant children separated from their parents and never explained why she wore a coat that overshadowed her visit to an immigration detention facility in McAllen, Texas.

“To be honest, I don’t know what she was thinking,” Grisham wrote. “Maybe she was sending a message to someone else by wearing that jacket, but I was never sure.”

Now, Katie Rogers, a White House correspondent for the New York Times, reports that the jacket was in fact a message aimed at Ivanka. In her forthcoming book, American Woman: The Transformation of the Modern First Lady, From Hillary Clinton to Jill Biden, Rogers says Melania and Trump’s eldest daughter engaged in a four-year “internal power struggle” over who would fulfill the duties of the First Lady. Melania, understandably, thought it should be her. But when she took months to move into the executive mansion, Ivanka tried to take over her stepmother’s role and quarters in the White House, so they could be “geared to serving the entire First Family, not just the First Lady.”

According to the New York Post, which reviewed an early copy of the book, Rogers says the jacket was meant to convey Melania’s displeasure at the Trump kids’ role in the administration:

Even the Slovenian-born First Lady’s most infamous moment grew out of her scorn for Ivanka. According to former administration officials, Melania was sending a message to her stepdaughter when she wore her “I really don’t care, do you?” jacket ahead of her June 2018 visit to see detained migrant children at the southern border. The pair “were locked in a quiet competition for press coverage” at the time, Rogers reported.

It’s unclear why anyone would look at a photo of the First Lady wearing a jacket with a rude phrase scrawled across the back and think: Wow, she really put Ivanka in her place! But perhaps coherent insult messaging is too much to expect from the woman who gave us “Be Best.”


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