For those who somehow missed what this is all about, a recording made in 2005 while Donald Trump and Bush were on the show's bus revealed Trump boasting that he kissed unwitting women and felt free to "grab 'em by the pussy," and unsurprisingly, a maelstrom of denunciations
ensued. At the second presidential debate a few days later, Trump of course denied there was any truth in the comments, reiterating that the banter was merely "locker room talk," and that he had never done what he'd bragged about.
But then a number of women made new allegations
, suggesting that, perhaps, he had indeed done those things.
Some may wonder if Melania Trump is in denial about all this (consider: In the last week alone, seven women have come forward with claims her husband touched them inappropriately), or if perhaps she is only doing what's expected of her. At this point in any presidential race, but perhaps this one in particular, it's not unusual for the candidates and their team — and their spouses -- to stay the course.
But it's interesting that while Melania Trump has been supportive of her husband — and, indeed, insisted to Cooper that her husband is "...kind. He's a gentleman ... supports everybody ... supports women" — and has echoed his claims that the election coverage is biased and the election itself rigged, she has remained notably removed from the campaign.
After the tape surfaced, she issued a written statement
condemning the comments. Hollywood Life
and others wondered if the cheek kiss she allowed her husband after the second debate was as icy as it looked on screen.
And even as Trump's children and advisers encouraged her to participate in a sit-down interview with her husband to address the recent claims, according to The New York Times, she declined
She's never liked the spotlight, sure. She was burned after parts of her speech at the Republican National Convention were revealed to have been cribbed
from Michelle Obama's 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. As Vanity Fair put it,
she's "never quite warmed up to the role of campaign spouse." Though she is smart, well-spoken, and certainly camera friendly, she has described herself, when it comes to her husband's campaign, as "a mom first."
Or maybe there's more to it.
Monday night, although Melania spoke to Cooper on behalf of her husband, it's notable that she did so a mere 48 hours before the final debate — and on her own, without him by her side. Her remarks, too, seemed to make the point that she was standing up just as much for herself; as she told Cooper, she doesn't want anyone's pity. "I'm very strong," she said. "And people — they don't really know me. People think and talk about me like, 'Oh, Melania, oh poor Melania.' Don't feel sorry for me. ... I can handle everything."
It's not hard to imagine this as a subtle distancing from her husband, a reinforcement of her own power as a woman more than a wife. And should Trump lose the race, it wouldn't be surprising if Melania distances herself even more.
Though Trump has campaigned largely on his business prowess and power, on Monday night, Melania described him as, well, quite immature. "Sometimes I say I have two boys at home. I have my young son and I have my husband," she told Cooper.
Is that what she wants from her husband? Perhaps. Or perhaps it's a preview: Maybe it's not only Republicans seeking to separate their fates from those of Donald Trump.