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Why did Melania Trump refuse to stand for her husband during his #SOTU speech?

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Kayleigh Dray
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In a break with longstanding tradition, Melania Trump arrived at the State of the Union address separately from the President, choosing instead to ride with the guests she’d invited to share her first lady’s box.

The internet has long been obsessed with the idea that there’s something a little… well, a little ‘off’ between Melania Trump and her husband, Donald. There was the time that the President refused to hold hands with his wife, and that moment when Melania snubbed her husband’s directions at a pre-inauguration event. There was the time that the official @FLOTUS account ‘liked’ a tweet which suggested Melania hates her husband.

And, of course, there’s the unfortunate video which was taken during Trump’s inauguration. In the clip, thousands watched as Melania smiled radiantly as Trump turned around to look at her. As his gaze slid off of his wife, however, her mouth seemingly fell into a moue of disappointment, anger, and anxiety – sparking a plethora of #FreeMelania hashtags all over social media.

Now, though, Melania’s unusual behaviour at Trump’s State of the Union address has sent the rumour-mill into overdrive.

First things first, Melania – who hasn’t been seen publicly with her husband since New Year’s Eve – decided to break with a longstanding White House tradition.

Instead of riding with her husband to the event, the increasingly independent First Lady decided to make her way there in a separate vehicle. She was joined by the guests she’d invited to share her first lady’s box.

“I will be joined tonight by an honourable group of Americans,” she tweeted ahead of the event.

“Sitting with me are heroes who have served our nation in times of need, families who have suffered at the hands of evil, and citizens who have embraced the American dream.”

Melania appeared to a standing ovation in the Capitol and was seated for her husband’s speech just one minute before its scheduled start, dressed in a white pantsuit.

Of course, scores of Democratic congresswomen wore white to the speech to symbolise the signature colour worn by the suffragettes when President Trump took the podium to address a joint session of Congress last February. 

And, naturally, many Twitter users have suggested that Melania’s outfit was symbolic of her own silent protest, too.

Later, Melania remained seated during a standing ovation for her husband – a decision which felt all the more loaded, considering that Trump had just referenced the importance of family.

“In America we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy are the centre of Democracy,” her husband had said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has since issued a statement to the press, insisting that the first lady arrived separately for “no reason other than she can greet the guests and he can go straight in.”

However, it’s worth noting that the State of the Union address marks Melania’s first public appearance in weeks, after she cancelled her planned trip with Trump to Davos, Switzerland.

While her communications director cited “scheduling and logistical issues” for the cancellation, many have suggested that the decision was made after her husband’s alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels was leaked to the press.

The alleged affair supposedly took place in 2006, four months after Melania Trump gave birth to the couple’s only son, Barron.

The president has vehemently denied the reports.

Images: Rex Features

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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