First lady Melania Trump called for an end to cyberbullying of children Monday, and promptly became the target of vicious online insults from her husband’s opponents.
Mrs. Trump gave a speech warning about the consequences of ganging up on children online, knowing she would be opening herself up to charges of hypocrisy from critics of President Trump’s badgering of adults on Twitter. But the predictable reaction quickly got personal.
One frequent critic tweeted that the first lady must be brain-damaged.
“Girlfriend’s lack of self-awareness & any sense of shame for her husband’s use of the Presidency to bully others, is hard to ignore,” tweeted political strategist and CNN commentator Ana Navarro. “Only plausible explanation here is, Melania suffered oxygen deprivation to the brain.”
Holly Figueroa O’Reilly, a songwriter and a national organizer of the “March for Truth” movement, compared the first lady to Hitler’s wife.
Actor Tom Arnold made fun of the first lady’s accent and of the president’s previous boasts about her intelligence, tweeting, “she’s lived in America over 20 yrs & hasn’t mastered English?”
All because the first lady wanted to call attention to the importance of allowing children to grow up without being bullied online.
Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, said Mrs. Trump “is aware of the criticism” directed at her.
“But it will not deter her from doing what she feels is right,” Ms. Grisham said. “The president is proud of her commitment to children and encourages her in all that she does.”
She said the first lady’s call to prevent bullying of children on social media “elevates an issue that is important to children and families across this country.”
Ms. Grisham was responding to a reporter’s question about why the first lady continues to engage in cyberbullying prevention efforts while Mr. Trump hurls insults at people on Twitter. He has called people “stupid,” “dummy” and “loser” hundreds of times on his Twitter account over the years.
While Mrs. Trump was attending the cyberbullying summit Monday in Rockville, Maryland, the president was busy unleashing his latest tweet storm against people he considers his enemies. He called former CIA Director John O. Brennan a “political hack.” Mr. Brennan is a fierce critic of the president, who revoked his security clearance last week.
The president also ridiculed special counsel Robert Mueller as “disgraced and discredited,” and called for the firing of Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.
At the summit, the first lady warned against “destructive and harmful” cyberbullying on social media, saying children must be taught to use online platforms responsibly and positively.
Speaking out as part of her Be Best campaign, Mrs. Trump said children often are more aware than adults of the dangers of social media.
“Let’s face it: Most children are more aware of the benefits and pitfalls of social media than some adults, but we still need to do all we can to provide them with information and tools for successful and safe online habits,” she said.
Her remarks came less than a week after Mr. Trump engaged in a bitter online feud with former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, calling her a “dog” and “crazed lowlife” on Twitter after she published a tell-all book about her tenure in the White House and accused him of racism.
Mrs. Trump called for educating children about responsible social media behavior.
“In today’s global society, social media is an inevitable part of our children’s daily lives,” she said. “It can be used in many positive ways, but can also be destructive and harmful when used incorrectly. This is why Be Best chooses to focus on the importance of teaching our next generation how to conduct themselves safely and in a positive manner in an online setting.”
The first lady said she has been particularly impressed by Microsoft’s Council for Digital Good, which is aimed at encouraging children to share ideas about positive online habits.
“I encourage technology and social media companies, schools and community groups, to establish more opportunities for children,” she said. “By listening to children’s ideas and concerns, I believe adults will be better able to help them navigate this often-difficult topic.”
Holly Ham, executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said the issue is “very personal” to her as a mother. She said bullying of Asian Americans is often compounded by cultural differences, and that cyberbullying is “still pervasive.”
“Bullying is an impediment that must be addressed and stopped, and it has no place in our communities,” she said.
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