First Lady Melania Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made a surprise appearance at a Michigan middle school, spawning talks of her promised anti-cyberbullying campaign. The pair visited with students at Orchard Lake Middle School to celebrate National Bullying Prevention Month’s “Week of Inclusion” on Oct. 23.
Reporters suspected the trip was the official start of Mrs. Trump’s long-awaited anti-cyberbullying campaign. Last year, the First Lady announced her goal to protect children from online bullying.
“It is never okay when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied or attacked,” Mrs. Trump said, before a crowd in Berwyn, Pa., in 2017. “It is terrible when that happens on the playground. And it is absolutely unacceptable when it’s done with someone with no name hiding on the internet. We have to find a better way to talk to each other, to disagree with each other, to respect each other. We must find better ways to honor and support the basic goodness of our children, especially in social media.”
But has Mrs. Trump actually kept her promise to protect America’s children from cyberbullying? So far, the answer is no.
Bullying 411 and #NoOneEatsAlone
Webster’s Dictionary defines bullying as the mistreatment of a vulnerable person by someone stronger. Bullies use superior strength to intimidate others. Aggressors usually repeat their bullying behavior. Over time, bullied children develop long-term psychological and emotional problems.
During her visit, the First Lady promoted the #NoOneEatsAlone initiative. The private program, created by Laura Talmus of Beyond Differences, asks children to invite new peers to join them for lunch. Mrs. Trump also observed the school’s Viking Huddle Class, which provides special social and emotional instruction to teens. The courses encourage children to treat their peers with kindness and respect. She later posed for selfies with students.
As she admonished against online bullying, FLOTUS’s message eluded her husband, President Donald Trump. He texted a flurry of online, morning Tweets against his critics. Observers say Trump’s social media behavior contradicts his wife’s anti-bullying message.
America’s Second Social Media President
President Trump is the second U.S. president to use social media for politicking, and the most-followed current, in-office world leader on social media. Trump has 39.7 million followers on Twitter. He surpassed Pope Francis’ 39.4 million. However, Former President Barack Obama has 97.3 million followers. For his part, Donald Trump regularly contributes controversial communiqués in 140 characters. For example, @realdonaldtrump:
- Criticized NFL players for kneeling during the National Anthem. Trump claimed that their ongoing protest against police brutality was unpatriotic.
- Confronted Congressional Rep. Frederica Wilson (D.-Fla.) and Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson. ISIS fighters killed Johnson’s husband, who was a Green Beret U.S. soldier, in Niger on October 4. Trump disputed the congresswoman’s claim that he told Johnson’s widow: “[Your husband] knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway.”
- In an ABC interview, Johnson’s widow said the President’s statement devastated her. She also said Trump didn’t seem to remember La David Johnson’s name during the conference call. However, President Trump argued that he had been respectful to the widow.
- Furthermore, he tweeted: “Wacky Congresswoman Wilson is the gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party, a disaster for Dems. You watch her in action & Vote R!”
Is An Anti-Cyberbullying Campaign Contradictory?
In light of her husband’s tweets, incredulous critics and news reporters panned Mrs. Trump’s new campaign as tone-deaf and ironic. When asked directly about stopping President Trump’s own cyberbullying, her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham fired back:
“As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.” (in a June 2017 statement)
Grisham told CNN the commander-in-chief’s behavior does not impact the First Lady’s campaign.
“Mrs. Trump is independent and acts independently from her husband. She does what she feels is right and knows that she has a real opportunity through her role as the First Lady to have a positive impact on the lives of children. Her only focus is to effect change within our next generation.”
Just First Lady Stuff
About that stop at Orchard Lake Middle School? Simply part of normal First Lady duties. Grisham says Mrs. Trump has visited many schools, “so the visit in Michigan should in no way be characterized as [kicking off] a ‘bullying prevention campaign.'”
She says there are no formal plans to start the promised anti-bullying campaign, but the Trump Administration looks forward to announcing plans within the coming months. Meanwhile, the First Lady will continue to support issues that affect children’s well-being.