After spending almost a month out of the public eye, first lady Melania Trump finally reappeared on June 6, The New York Times reports. She accompanied President Donald Trump to a briefing on hurricane season, but also did not explain her extended absence.
“She went through a little rough patch, but she’s doing great,” Trump said. “The people love you. Thank you, honey.” But some conspiracy theories about where she went continue to fester. We ranked the ideas we heard, ending with the most insane. This last one sounds too bizarre (page 15) — or does it?
15. Fact: She spent some time in the hospital
Melania Trump | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
First, the facts. Trump did spend five days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in May. She underwent surgery to treat a benign kidney condition, according to her aides. However, Politico points out that the embolization she received usually takes only a day, and can even take place outpatient. So why did hers take so long?
Next: The president’s Twitter also added fuel to the fire.
14. Trump repeated a number of theories
Donald Trump | Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images
Trump, as he tends to do, tweeted out a statement about his wife’s absence — the longest for any modern first lady. “The Fake News Media has been so unfair, and vicious, to my wife and our great first lady, Melania,” wrote the president. “During her recovery from surgery they reported everything from near death, to facelift, to left the W.H. (and me) for N.Y. or Virginia, to abuse. All Fake, she is doing really well!”
Next: But do any of these insane theories actually hold water?
13. Theory: One writer suggested abuse
Ivana Trump in a gown | Francois Durand/Getty Images
Rolling Stone senior writer Jamil Smith suggested that Melania Trump may have hidden to conceal domestic abuse. Trump has a long history of issues with women, as The New Yorker detailed. His former wife, Ivana Trump, has even accused him of rape.
“I wish that I didn’t suspect that the prolonged, poorly explained public absence of Melania Trump could be about concealing abuse,” Smith tweeted. “I wish that it was a ludicrous prospect [and] that the @POTUS wasn’t a man with a history of abusing women, including those to whom he is married.”
Next: Other theories also sounded a little more lighthearted.
12. Theory: She got a bad haircut
Bette Midler | Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
Many on social media weighed in on what may have happened to the first lady. Some of those accounts sounded a little more, um, realistic. Bette Midler tweeted, “Melania still hasn’t been seen. 22 days. It seems ominous. Maybe she just drunk-cut her own bangs and doesn’t want to upset her fans. I’ve done that plenty of times!!!” Haven’t we all.
Next: However, the president drew suspicion in the following way.
11. Theory: Trump wanted to cover up something
The White House in Washington, D.C. | jtomason/iStock/Getty Images
Fifteen days after Trump’s last public sighting on May 25, a reporter asked Trump about his wife’s whereabouts. The Washington Post reports that he gestured at an empty window to demonstrate her presence. “She’s doing great. She’s looking at us right there,” he said. No one else could see her. Weird, right?
Next: The following old theory popped back up again.
10. Theory: She employs a body double
Melania Trump | Win McNamee/Getty Images
In November 2017, speculation first surfaced online about the woman in the mirrored sunglasses who appeared with Trump. It gave rise to the “Fake Melania” conspiracy theory that the first lady actually employs a body double. This latest disappearance did not quell that rumor, although it also didn’t give it much fuel. If a body double does stand in for the first lady, why disappear in the first place?
Next: This idea does also have some basis in reality.
9. Theory: The first lady wants to divorce Trump
Donald and Melania Trump | Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Some say the presidential marriage has hit the rocks, and some of the first lady’s more recent actions support that theory. The pair has never had a warm relationship. Ahead of the State of the Union address, the first lady even traveled there separately.
That came just days after the Wall Street Journal broke the news about Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, allegedly related to their affair. Trump and Melania also reportedly sleep in separate bedrooms. Maybe trouble brews in paradise.
Next: Others also wonder if Melania Trump lives with her husband at all.
8. Theory: She doesn’t live in the White House at all
Melania and Barron Trump | Alex Wong/Getty Images
The first lady also took longer than usual to move to the White House after her husband took office. She and their son Barron spent the first five months in New York City, while he finished school there. Some say she may never have left.
According to The Washington Post, Trump spends very little time in her husband’s offices. “She seldom sets foot in the West Wing,” said one person. She also retains an unusually small staff; about 10 people, or half the size of Michelle Obama’s. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls rumors of Trump living elsewhere “ridiculous.” Then again, she doesn’t have the best truth record.
Next: Some say she may have even done the following.
7. Theory: The first lady has left the president
Melania and Donald Trump | Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
Since the presidential couple spends so little time together already, we could sort of believe if Trump left her husband. The Washington Post ran a profile of the first lady recently that delved into their distant relationship. At Mar-a-Lago, the president golfs or dines with guests, usually without his wife.
According to several current and former aides, the president and first lady often do not eat together in the White House either, and they also sleep in separate bedrooms. During the campaign, Trump told The Washington Post that she and her husband remain “very independent.” She added, “We give ourselves and each other space.”
Next: Given the long silence, we also wonder if something bad happened.
6. Theory: Something has gone wrong
Mar-A-Lago resort | Joe Raedle/Getty Images
On June 3, Hollywood Life reported concern circulating among Trump’s friends. “Nobody has heard from Melania over these past few weeks, and her cell phone has been switched off,” one source told Hollywood Life. “To have radio silence for this long is just strange, something is going on, but nobody knows what, it’s definitely concerning.”
We know that withdrawing from friends and family can set off warning bells. While Trump might have just resorted to her typical privacy, ignoring friends does not bode well.
Next: However, many observers also stick to the surgery angle.
5. Theory: She underwent plastic surgery
Woman getting plastic surgery | ronstik/Getty Images
Marie Claire pointed out that Trump may have undergone plastic surgery. It requires a longer recovery time than the surgery she publicized, and would not come as uncommon for a woman in her age bracket.
The fact that the White House would cover it up also shocks no one. Donald Trump famously blasted Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski for allegedly getting a facelift. If Melania Trump publicly got one — which she should have the agency to do — it could expose her husband’s hypocrisy.
Next: Savvy media have also pointed to the following statement for clues.
4. Theory: The White House cooked it up to taunt the media
Press in the White House with Melania Trump | Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
If Trump’s disappearance actually just distracts the media from the president’s shady dealings, that could actually make sense. James Kosur tweeted, “What if Donald Trump is keeping Melania Trump in hiding in the hopes that the left will spin wild conspiracy theories which he can use against the #resistance to claim we are all just crazy lunatics who will say anything out of hatred for him?” Not a bad call.
It also lines up with what 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl recounted recently. The president told her, “You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.” It doesn’t sound so crazy, from that angle.
Next: Speaking of crazy, this next theory gets a little off the wall.
3. Theory: Trump murdered her in a fit of rage
Donald Trump | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
When someone disappears for a long time, we automatically start looking for bodies. James Gunn tweeted, “It’s unlikely Trump murdered Melania in a fit of rage and the people around him are helping to cover it up while they figure out what to do next.” Or as another Twitter user put it, “1. Melania hasn’t been seen in 24 days. 2. Giuliani says Trump can pardon himself for any crime. I’m just saying.”
Next: Does the following theory sound even more insane?
2. Theory: She decided to cooperate with Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller | Alex Wong/Getty Images
As more and more former and current Trump advisers cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, some suspect the first lady has joined the other team. Mueller has Trump under investigation for Russian collusion, and while no ties between Russia and Melania have emerged, it would hardly shock the nation. She and Vladimir Putin did chat during the G20 summit, People reports. Who knows if that represents their first meeting?
Next: This final theory really has us shaking our heads.
1. Theory: She used a tunnel from the White House to live with the Obamas
Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama greet Melania Trump. | David J. Phillip-Pool/Getty Images
Recent photographs of Melania Trump and the Obamas reveal she actually enjoys their company. A (hopefully) satirical Chicago Tribune commentary broke down the most insane conspiracy theory. That writer explained that the Deep State helped sneak the first lady out of the White House through a tunnel under the North Lawn to go live with Barack and Michelle Obama.
The timeline actually kind of works. On May 19, The White House reported the first lady’s return to the White House. Then, on May 20, a sinkhole opened up on the North Lawn of the White House. And on May 30, a tweet sent from her Twitter account read suspiciously like her husband’s. “I see the media is working overtime speculating where I am & what I’m doing. Rest assured, I’m here at the @WhiteHouse w my family, feeling great, & working hard on behalf of children & the American people!” Sure, Melania. Sure.
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