Over the past week, CNN has aired more than two dozen stories inviting speculation and gossip about the supposedly mysterious "disappearance" of First Lady Melania Trump, who has been recuperating from kidney surgery.
From May 30 to June 5, MRC analysts tallied 25 segments in which CNN's on-air personnel talked about Mrs. Trump's lack of public appearances, as if her well-being were somehow in doubt – despite the fact that, on May 30, CNBC Washington correspondent Eamon Javers tweeted that he had personally seen her walking in the West Wing the previous day.
On May 31, CNN International host John Vause speculated with political commentator John Thomas that a recent tweet from Mrs. Trump’s account had actually been written by the President. “There's talk that maybe this isn't exactly a Tweet from the First Lady, maybe it's Donald Trump pretending to be the First Lady,” Vause remarked. Thomas agreed: “I would suspect that’s it.”
During a June 2 morning edition of CNN Newsroom, Huffington Post reporter Laura Bassett issued a panicked plea to the First Lady. “It seems like all she really needs to do is just step outside of the White House, just show her face, to prove that she's fine, to prove that everything is as she says it is,” she urged.
“There are some who say that she doesn’t owe us an appearance,” noted co-host Victor Blackwell. Bassett bristled at the suggestion: “I think that is a little bit of a double standard. People were practically pawing through Michelle Obama’s trash when she was the First Lady.”
The network stubbornly continued with their narrative even after it was announced that the First Lady would be attending an event for Gold Star families on Monday, June 4. That morning, New Day co-host John Berman sounded dubious: “We’re told she will be at a White House event tonight, but we won't see her. The event is closed to the press.”
“Speculation is being raised as well because she’s not going to attend any of the summits that the President is attending in the next week,” White House reporter Kaitlin Collins added. “She also did not travel to Camp David with the President and several other members of his family this weekend.”
Some at CNN eventually caught wind that people were mocking them for their tireless coverage. On June 4, a hurt-sounding Brian Stelter complained in his daily newsletter: “Pro-Trump media has a new attack line. They’re bemoaning the ‘where’s Melania?’ news cycle.” The Reliable Sources host added huffily: “The First Lady's office is aligning itself with the right-wing media critics, saying the press corps is ‘rabid.’”
Thus far, the network has run six stories about Mrs. Trump’s absence since she attended that Gold Star event on Monday. Rather than letting their narrative die, CNN commentators stubbornly justified their conspiratorial coverage from the preceding week. “It raised a lot of questions. People were concerned,” Alisyn Camerota worried on Tuesday's New Day. “They’ve been vague about it.”