President Donald Trump spent the weekend working on his comedy chops at the annual Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington D.C. The roast-style quips coming from the president at the dinner on Saturday, March 3 focused on the latest headlines surrounding the Trump administration. Seemingly no one was safe from being turned into a punchline. While some of the jabs were admittedly pretty funny, Donald Trump's joke about Melania leaving him struck a darker tone that wasn't quite expected.
Self-deprecating jokes about the president and his administration are not out of place at an event like the Gridiron Club Dinner, which has been attended by most presidents since its founding in 1855, according to NPR. President Trump didn't attend the annual dinner last year, but he was prepared with a joke-filled speech on Saturday night — and a zinger in the direction of the first lady raised some eyebrows. Trump started out the night by acknowledging one of the latest news pieces concerning his son-in-law and presidential aide, Jared Kushner.
The president joked that they were late "because Jared could not get through security." Kushner's security clearance was downgraded on Feb. 28 due to a multitude of factors, including significant unanswered questions on his original application.
President Trump then moved into the high turnover rate of the personnel in his administration, and that is when Melania became the punchline. After declaring he "likes" the chaotic turnover, Trump quipped, "Now the question everyone keeps asking is: ‘Who’s going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller or Melania?’"
The line was quickly greeted with gasps from the audience, according to NPR. Seemingly acknowledging the marked shift in the tone of the evening, Trump said to Melania from the podium, "That is terrible, honey — but you love me, right?" Since there is no video from the closed-door dinner, you can't make out what Melania reportedly mouthed to the president away from the microphone, but President Trump resumed his speech as he told the audience, "I won't tell you what she said." Reporters at the dinner relayed that the first lady reportedly told the president to "behave."
From the reporting of the night, it's clear that the audience wasn't on board with this particular joke, and I can't blame them. It's one thing to kid around about a trend that is actually happening (like the revolving door on many positions in Trump's White House), but to apply that same premise to your actual wife takes it to a different (and much darker) level.
President Trump bucks some traditional elements of the presidency, and his history of ex-wives was well-documented prior to his election, but even so, his joke about Melania leaving him seemed to lack any levity. Additionally, this joke about divorce comes amid recent reports of President Trump's alleged infidelity with Stormy Daniels in 2006, which would have been right after his wife Melania gave birth to their son, Barron Trump. (The White House spokespeople have denied the affair on behalf of President Trump.)
Trump's divorce joke also comes in the middle of reports that news of the alleged affair has reportedly put the president and first lady's marriage on uneven footing. Following the news of the alleged Stormy Daniels affair, Melania canceled a preplanned trip to Davos, Switzerland with her husband for the World Economic Forum. Cosmopolitan also notes that neither the president nor first lady acknowledged their 13th wedding anniversary on their social media accounts on Jan. 22, 2018.
Despite these less than ideal circumstances, the president closed out his Melania portion of the night on Saturday when he said, "And I just don’t understand why everyone on the internet and in the media keeps screaming, ‘Hashtag Free Melania, Free Melania.' ... She’s actually having a great time."
Whether or not, Melania is "having a great time" can only be confirmed by the first lady herself. From the reports of her reaction to her husband's jokes on Saturday night, though, I think it's safe to assume that she might enjoy herself a little more as long as the president stays away from the comedic stylings displayed at the Gridiron Dinner.