Melania Trump replacement conspiracy theory

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Donald and Melania Trump in Alabama, March 2018. Some believe the woman pictured here was not the real Melania.

In 2017, a conspiracy theory began that then-First Lady of the United States Melania Trump was replaced, or was sometimes replaced, by a body double,[1][2][3] and that the "real" Melania was either dead, refusing to attend occasional events, or had exited from public life entirely. Supporters of the theory allege physical differences in facial features, bodily dimensions, or behavior between the original and supposed 'replacement' Melania, and changes in President Donald Trump's language in referring to Melania.

Theories arose at several periods during Trump's presidency, particularly in October 2017,[1][4][5][6][7] May-June 2018,[8][9] March 2019,[3][10][11] and October 2020.[12] Trump himself addressed the theory through tweets and in comments to reporters, denouncing it as false and "fake news".[13]

A number of mainstream media sources labelled the theory false, with some labelling it "a ridiculous conspiracy theory"[4] and "a non-story".[1] Website Vox described the theory as conforming to various narratives surrounding the First Lady, which "[paint] Melania as either unwilling to be part of the administration or as someone who hates her husband so much that she’s found a body double to stand in".[14]

Origins[edit]

In 2017, The Guardian columnist Marina Hyde claimed to have inadvertently launched the theory, tweeting "Absolutely convinced Melania is being played by a Melania impersonator these days. Theory: she left him weeks ago" on October 13th.[7] However, Business Insider referenced tweets speculating about a body double from the month before Hyde tweeted.[4] A Facebook post by actress Andrea Wagner Barton, also published on October 13th in support of the theory, was shared nearly 100,000 times.[4]

Social media posts discussing the theory noted a photograph in which Melania looked very similar to a woman pictured next to her, apparently a Secret Service agent,[4] while other posts highlighted that Trump referred aloud to "my wife, Melania, who happens to be right here".[2][4][5][6]

On May 14th, 2018, Melania reportedly underwent an embolization, a minimally invasive procedure that deliberately blocks a blood vessel[15] in order to treat a benign kidney condition. The procedure was reportedly successful and performed without complications.[16] During this period, Melania was not seen in public for five weeks, with the White House also refusing to comment on her absence for most of this period, generating further theories.[17] In one instance, when asked about Melania, Trump told pool reporters that she was watching them from a window, pointing to the window in question, which was clearly empty.[9] Following Melania's reported return to the White House following surgery, Trump tweeted a welcome which misspelled her name as "Melanie".[18][19]

An alternative theory regarding Melania's public appearances, posited following her time spent recovering from surgery, was that Melania had had plastic surgery, possibly a facelift or breast enlargement, resulting in her appearing different.[20]

The body double theory arose again in July 2018, stemming from images of Melania exiting Air Force One in Brussels.[21] The theory was raised again in 2019 following a Trump visit to an Alabama tornado site. The TV show The View had a segment on "a surge of internet chatter about the former fashion model’s Alabama appearance under the #fakeMelania hashtag."[10]

The theory resurfaced again in October 2020, with observers finding differences between Melania and the woman who accompanied Trump to the final presidential debate. Director Zack Bornstein tweeted: "The only thing I'll miss from this administration is them swapping in new Melanias and just pretending we won't notice like a 4-year-old with a guppy."[12] Former White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, seemed to confirm the rumor while a guest on Have You Been Paying Attention?, stating "You know Michael Cohen, the President’s lawyer, insists that there is a body double and insists that actually her sister sometimes replaces her on the campaign trail... Usually when you see somebody more affectionate with Mr. Trump.”[22]

Response[edit]

Following his trip to Alabama in March 2018, Donald Trump tweeted that "the Fake News photoshopped pictures of Melania propelled conspiracy theories that it’s actually not her by my side in Alabama and other places."[10][23] Trump gave no evidence of any photoshopped pictures.[23] Melania's spokeswoman called the segment on The View "shameful"[24] and "beyond petty".[25]

One scholar, University of Pennsylvania history professor Sophia Rosenfeld, noted that the conspiracy theory of Melania's replacement follows a long line of similar claims of noted figures: "Pornographic libelles featuring a sex-obsessed Marie-Antoinette in the years before the French Revolution are simply the ancestors of today's 'news stories' claiming Michelle Obama or Melania Trump is actually a man, or a body double, or a lesbian, or anything else salacious."[26]

Parodies[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "White House: Melania body double a non-story". CNN. October 19, 2017. Archived from the original on October 20, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Is Donald Trump using a fake Melania? Conspiracy theories flood social media". BBC. October 19, 2017. Archived from the original on October 19, 2017. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Bruney, Gabrielle (March 9, 2019). "The 'Fake Melania' Conspiracy Theory is Back". Esquire. Archived from the original on March 13, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Taylor, Kate (October 18, 2017). "The internet is going crazy over a ridiculous conspiracy theory that Melania Trump has been replaced by a body double". Business Insider. Archived from the original on October 18, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Colburn, Randall (October 18, 2017). "Hot new conspiracy theory: Melania Trump has been replaced by a body double". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on October 19, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  6. ^ a b "There's a conspiracy theory that Melania Trump has been replaced by a robot". Evening Standard. October 19, 2017. Archived from the original on October 19, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Hyde, Marina (October 19, 2017). "Who started the 'Melania Trump body double' conspiracy theory? Look no further". Guardian. Archived from the original on October 19, 2017. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  8. ^ Hale-Stern, Kaila (June 4, 2018). "Why People Are Freaking out About Melania Trump Being "Missing"". TheMarySue. Archived from the original on June 5, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Heil, Emily (May 5, 2018). "Trump says the first lady is 'doing great.' She hasn't been seen in public for two weeks". Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 25, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c "'Fake Melania' conspiracy theory about body double is 'deranged' says Trump". South China Morning Post. March 14, 2019. Archived from the original on March 13, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  11. ^ "Does Melania Trump have a body double?". Fox News. March 28, 2019. Archived from the original on March 14, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  12. ^ a b "'Fake Melania' conspiracy theory re-emerges as photo goes viral". Metro. 2020-10-25. Archived from the original on 2020-10-31. Retrieved 2020-10-25.
  13. ^ "No body double: Trump blasts #FakeMelania theories". AP NEWS. March 13, 2019. Archived from the original on March 13, 2019. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  14. ^ Abad-Santos, Alex (October 20, 2017). "The "Fake Melania" conspiracy theory, explained". Vox. Archived from the original on December 9, 2020. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  15. ^ Scutti, Susan. "What we know -- and don't know -- about Melania Trump's procedure". CNN. Archived from the original on May 16, 2018. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  16. ^ Singman, Brooke (May 14, 2018). "First lady Melania Trump in hospital, underwent 'successful' kidney procedure". Fox News. Archived from the original on May 15, 2018. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  17. ^ Karni, Annie (May 29, 2018). "White House silence on Melania stokes conspiracy theories". POLITICO. Archived from the original on January 14, 2021. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  18. ^ "Trump misspells Melania's name in tweet on her return to White House from hospital". May 20, 2018. Archived from the original on February 4, 2021. Retrieved December 11, 2019 – via www.theguardian.com.
  19. ^ "Donald Trump misspells Melania's name in 'welcome home' tweet". Sky News. 20 May 2018. Archived from the original on 24 January 2021. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  20. ^ "Was Melania Trump's Secret Surgery Really A Breast Enlargement? Viral Video Sparks Rumors Online". www.inquisitr.com. August 29, 2018. Archived from the original on January 26, 2021. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  21. ^ Shamsian, Jacob (July 12, 2018). "A rumor that Melania Trump has a body double has been reignited after these images of her leaving Air Force One surfaced". Insider. Archived from the original on March 13, 2021. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  22. ^ "'Fake Melania': White House insider confirms rumours". au.finance.yahoo.com. Archived from the original on 2020-11-23. Retrieved 2020-11-04.
  23. ^ a b Oprysko, Caitlin. "Trump accuses media of editing photos of first lady to stoke 'Fake Melania' conspiracy theory". POLITICO. Archived from the original on 2021-03-13. Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  24. ^ "Trump wades into Melania 'body double' conspiracy theory". The Straits Times. March 14, 2019. Archived from the original on December 17, 2019. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  25. ^ Yasharoff, Hannah. "Melania Trump's rep slams 'The View' body-double segment: 'Beyond petty, mean-girl spirit'". USA TODAY. Archived from the original on 2019-12-19. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  26. ^ Sophia Rosenfeld, Democracy and Truth: A Short History (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), page 13.
  27. ^ Kwong, Jessica (March 16, 2019). "Watch: Melania Trump impersonators reemerge after #FakeMelania body double conspiracy theory". Newsweek. Archived from the original on January 12, 2021. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  28. ^ Moran, Lee (30 October 2020). "There's A New Fake Melania Trump In Town". HuffPost. Archived from the original on 12 February 2021. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  29. ^ "Tracey Ullman on Playing British 'National Treasures,' Powerful Women". Rolling Stone. 28 October 2017. Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 30 October 2017.