As the guessing game continues about the identity of the anonymous author of a controversial New York Times op-ed savaging her husband, Melania Trump has lashed out at the unknown writer.
But the impassioned first lady – who rarely speaks out in public – defended America, not the president.
Mrs Trump had a harsh and specific message for the unknown US administration source: “You are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions.”
The first lady vented her spleen in a statement to CNN.
“Freedom of speech is an important pillar of our nation’s founding principles and a free press is important to our democracy.
“The press should be fair, unbiased and responsible.”
Mrs Trump’s plea didn’t necessarily earn her any new social media friends, and sparked suggestions maybe she had her own ghost writer for the statement.
Of all things that her husband has tweeted, she wants to defend this, someone's opinion editorial article about the White House?
— Tuscana (@ddchills) September 6, 2018
I'm confused. @Flotus just released a statement decrying the anonymous Op Ed piece & the "lies" told about her hubby. But @MelaniaTrump, anon said he was amoral. You know that's true. He cheated on his 2nd wife WITH you and ON you w/ two women he paid off. #CmonSon#BeBest#MAGA
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) September 6, 2018
The op-ed author has been identified only as a “senior Trump administration official” who says they are part of an internal “resistance” working to stymie parts of the president’s agenda and block his worst impulses.
The New York Times piece, which has caused a sensation around the world, was published amid questions around Mr Trump’s fitness and control over his administration.
On Wednesday (US time), he pre-empted his wife’s reaction by calling the author “gutless”.
Mrs Trump was even more emotive.
“People with no names are writing our nation’s history. Words are important, and accusations can lead to severe consequences,” she said.
“If a person is bold enough to accuse people of negative actions, they have a responsibility to publicly stand by their words and people have the right to be able to defend themselves.”
Known to the newspaper, the article’s author is described only as a senior administration official.
Vice president Mike Pence has denied he is the anonymous writer of the piece, which painted Mr Trump as “amoral” and reckless.
Melania insisted that anyone bold enough to make such accusations should “stand by their words” rather than hiding behind anonymity.
Meanwhile, Mrs Trump faced headlines on a different front thanks to an excerpt of an explosive new book about her husband published in The Guardian.
In Fear: Trump in the White House, veteran journalist Bob Woodward wrote that Mrs Trump faced down a positive publicity request from her husband after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced during his 2016 presidential campaign.
On the tape, Mr Trump said he is “automatically attracted” to beautiful women and starts kissing them.
“I don’t wait,” he bragged to then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush.
“Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything,” he added.
Amid the fallout from the tape, Melania was “adamantly opposed” to appearing on TV by her husband’s side for damage control, according to the excerpt.
“‘Not doing that,’ Melania said in her Slovenian accent, dismissively waving her hand,” Mr Woodward wrote.
“‘No way. No, no, no.’”
At the time, Mrs Trump called her husband’s comments “unacceptable and offensive” to her.
“This does not represent the man that I know. He has the heart and mind of a leader,” she said in a statement.
“I hope people will accept his apology, as I have.”
Mr Trump addressed the contents of the Woodward book on Wednesday during an Oval Office photo opportunity: “Means nothing. It’s a work of fiction.”