First lady Melania Trump joined President Donald Trump on Air Force One Monday on a trip to Ohio where she split off for a solo event visiting children at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
At each table, the activity was different– some kids were painting, others making arts and crafts, and a handful of young boys played the board game, Sorry. The first lady shook hands with each child she met as she sat at the low tables, stooping to get eye level with them as she asked their names and ages.
“Show me what you’re doing,” she asked them.
The children were friendly with Trump, perhaps drawn to her bright yellow sweater and overcoat — draped in her signature over-the-shoulders fashion. One toddler outstretched her arms to be held, a request the first lady granted, pulling the curly-haired blonde girl onto her hip and cuddling her as she pointed around the room.
It was a routine Trump has become familiar with for the past several months: acting as a compassionate face on her husband’s presidency, a relatively chaos-ridden administration. As the first lady was comforting sick children, the President was nearby, at the Sheffer Corporation in Blue Ash, Ohio, giving an at-time off-script speech railing against Democrats, accusing them of being “un-American” because they didn’t clap for his State of the Union address.
Meanwhile, the first lady’s hospital visit began with a briefing with its president and CEO, Michael Fisher, and the doctors who lead the medical center’s pediatrics and neonatology departments. Trump was briefed about Ohio’s critical opioid epidemic and how the hospital is handling the spike in babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Trump, joined by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, listened intently to a discussion that was assisted by graphs and charts, illustrating the astronomical rise of babies going through withdrawal and what happens to the opioid crisis’ littlest victims once they’re born.
The first lady has taken an interest in children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. In October, she traveled to Lily’s Place in West Virginia, a treatment center that specializes in babies born with opioid withdrawal symptoms.
The trip to Cincinnati, which the first lady made with her husband aboard Air Force One from Washington, comes on the heels of a few particularly trying weeks for her. Reports emerged about an alleged affair between her husband and a porn star, which he has denied, and a reported six-figure payoff to keep her quiet about it, which his lawyer also denied.
The first lady canceled at the last minute her trip to Davos, Switzerland, citing “scheduling and logistical issues,” begging off accompanying the President on the journey, instead making a stealth overnight trip to Mar-a-Lago for an as-yet-publicly-unexplained reason. She tweeted an acknowledgement of the one-year observance of Trump’s inauguration on January 20, without mentioning the President, or showing his picture. The Trump’s 13th wedding anniversary on January 22 went unacknowledged on the couple’s social media channels, and a week ago she broke longstanding tradition by taking a separate vehicle from her husband for the ride from the White House to the Capitol for his State of the Union address.
But Monday’s brief Ohio visit demonstrated that the first lady appears back to her usual stoic self. With high-fives and hugs, Trump smiled her way through her time with the children, chatting amicably.
Before she left, aides handed the kids Valentine’s Day cards, with a stamp of the White House on the inside, accompanied by a single red heart, and signed in thick, black ink, “Melania Trump.”