When the Trumps arrived in Israel Monday they were met at the airport by Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara. As the four of them walked down a red carpet away from Air Force One, Trump reached back with his left hand toward his wife Melania who was trailing a bit behind. As Melania caught up she swatted Trump’s hand away. This brief moment quickly became a social media sensation. Notice the number of retweets of this video clip:
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) May 22, 2017
CNN wrote a story which called it “a flick of the wrist seen ’round the world.” The Washington Post suggested the first couple “miiight want to work on their choreography.” In its story about the swat, Newsweek cautioned, “It’s unclear what, if anything, this means about the status of the president’s marriage. It would be wrong to assume there are troubles in White House paradise simply because of hand-smacking.” But the Independent asked a body language expert for her take:
We asked body language expert Patti Wood what her opinion is.
Wood believes the First Lady’s action was deliberate: “He was walking way in front to show his power and putting his hand back to lead her like a child, her hand went under his and up and out to say ‘No, you can’t lead me like a child.’”
Other news outlets were less restrained in their take. The Daily Beast’s Erin Gloria Ryan titled her piece “Melania’s Swat Proves She Hates Donald Just as Much as America Does.”
Seeing tweets about a judge striking down an immigration ban, or watching a Trump surrogate make an ass of themselves on cable news just doesn’t taste as delicious to a victory-starved liberal as the image of a woman slapping Trump’s hand away. For the millions who continue to be horrified by the Trump era, there’s nothing more zeitgeisty in 2017 than Trump schadenfreude porn. And there’s nobody more well-positioned to deliver it than our Ice Queen First Lady.
As over the top as this sounds I think she’s on to something. Notice that first tweet above suggests the swat is “embarrassing.” Much of the coverage of this micro-moment, and there are several dozen more stories about this, seem to relish the idea that Donald Trump is unhappy or being rejected. There are a lot of progressives out there, including many with bylines, who were anticipating a series of major gaffes on this trip. So far that hasn’t happened, but the hand swat is a bit of schadenfreude they can enjoy.
There was at least one outlet that suggested a different take. The Mercury News, citing a story at Politico about Melania’s protectiveness toward Trump and desire to see him succeed, wrote:
Like Donald Trump, perception is said to be key to Melania Trump. Perhaps she thought it somehow wasn’t traditional or professional for first couples to hold hands as they deplane to meet world leaders on official state visits. A brief video clip of the swat shows that Netanhayu and his wife weren’t holding hands as they get ready for the photo op.
But that take is definitely an outlier. Mostly, the media seemed to be reveling in the idea that the First Lady is unhappy with the President. New York Magazine suggested that the First Couple holding hands on the way back to the plane was an attempt at damage control. But this clip of the First Couple arriving in Rome will probably start a whole new round of speculation: