Unsolved:Melania Trump replacement theory
The Melania Trump replacement theory is a conspiracy theory that First Lady of the United States Melania Trump has been replaced by a body double, and that the "real" Melania is either dead or gone from public life. Supporters of the theory allege physical differences in facial features, bodily dimensions, or behavior between the original and replacement Melania, and changes in President Donald Trump's language in referring to Melania.
Theories have arisen at several periods during Trump's presidency, particularly in October 2017, May-June 2018, and March 2019. Trump himself has addressed the theory through tweets and in comments to reporters, denouncing it as false and "fake news".
Mainstream media sources have labelled the theory false, calling it for example "a ridiculous conspiracy theory" and "a non-story." Website Vox described the theory as conforming with a narrative outsiders have created about Melania, which "paints Melania as either unwilling to be part of the administration or as someone who hates her husband so much that she’s found a body double to stand in".
In October 2017, The Guardian columnist Marina Hyde claimed to have inadvertently launched the theory by tweeting on 13 October, "Absolutely convinced Melania is being played by a Melania impersonator these days. Theory: she left him weeks ago". Another source wrote that the theory had already been circulating for months by then. An October 13 Facebook post of the theory by an actress named Andrea Wagner Barton quickly gained nearly a hundred thousand shares. Others noted an image where Melania was accompanied by another woman, appearing to be a Secret Service agent, with a very similar appearance. Some found it suspicious that Trump referred aloud to "my wife, Melania, who happens to be right here."
On May 14, 2018, Melania reportedly underwent an embolization, which is a minimally invasive procedure that deliberately blocks a blood vessel in order to treat a benign kidney condition. The procedure was reportedly successful and without complications. During this period she was not seen in public for five weeks, while the White House refused for most of that period to comment on her absence at all, spurring further theories. In one instance, when asked about Melania, Trump told pool reporters that she was watching them from a window, pointing to the window, which was clearly empty. Following Melania's reported return to the White House following surgery, Trump tweeted a welcome which misspelled her name as "Melanie". An alternative theory proposed after the surgery episode was that Melania had had plastic surgery, possibly a facelift or breast enlargement, resulting in different appearance. The body double theory arose again in July 2018, from images of Melania exiting Air Force One in Brussels.
The theory was raised again in 2019 following a Trump visit to an Alabama tornado site. The TV show The View had a segment on "a surge of internet chatter about the former fashion model’s Alabama appearance under the #fakeMelania hashtag."
After the Alabama trip, Donald Trump tweeted "the Fake News photoshopped pictures of Melania, then propelled conspiracy theories that it’s actually not her by my side in Alabama and other places." Trump gave no evidence of any photoshopped pictures. Melania's spokeswoman called the segment on The View "shameful" and "beyond petty".
One scholar, University of Pennsylvania history professor Sophia Rosenfeld, noted that this conspiracy theory follows a long line of such claims of noted figures: "Pornographic libelles featuring a sex-obsessed Marie-Antoinette in the years before the French Revolution are simply the ancestors of today's 'news stories' claiming Michelle Obama or Melania Trump is actually a man, or a body double, or a lesbian, or anything else salacious."
Late night talk show host Stephen Colbert has poked fun at the theory by having actress Laura Benanti appear on his show as a Melania impersonator.
- "White House: Melania body double a non-story". CNN. October 19, 2017. https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/10/19/melania-trump-body-double-false-bennett-galanos-ots.hln.
- "Is Donald Trump using a fake Melania? Conspiracy theories flood social media". BBC. October 19, 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/41677174/is-donald-trump-using-a-fake-melania-conspiracy-theories-flood-social-media.
- Bruney, Gabrielle (March 9, 2019). "The 'Fake Melania' Conspiracy Theory is Back". https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a26772325/fake-melania-trump-theory/.
- Taylor, Kate (October 18, 2017). "The internet is going crazy over a ridiculous conspiracy theory that Melania Trump has been replaced by a body double". https://www.businessinsider.com/melania-trump-absurd-conspiracy-theory-2017-10.
- Colburn, Randall (October 18, 2017). "Hot new conspiracy theory: Melania Trump has been replaced by a body double". https://www.avclub.com/hot-new-conspiracy-theory-melania-trump-has-been-repla-1819662493.
- "There's a conspiracy theory that Melania Trump has been replaced by a robot". Evening Standard. October 19, 2017. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/twitter-goes-mad-in-belief-melania-trump-has-a-body-double-or-has-been-replaced-by-a-robot-a3662476.html.
- Hyde, Marina (October 19, 2017). "Who started the ‘Melania Trump body double’ conspiracy theory? Look no further". Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/lostinshowbiz/2017/oct/19/who-started-melania-trump-body-double-conspiracy-theory.
- Hale-Stern, Kaila (June 4, 2018). "Why People Are Freaking out About Melania Trump Being “Missing”". https://www.themarysue.com/where-is-melania/.
- Heil, Emily (May 5, 2018). "Trump says the first lady is ‘doing great.’ She hasn’t been seen in public for two weeks.". https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/trump-says-the-first-lady-is-doing-great-she-hasnt-been-seen-in-public-for-two-weeks/2018/05/25/b9107c60-5f97-11e8-a4a4-c070ef53f315_story.html.
- "‘Fake Melania’ conspiracy theory about body double is ‘deranged’ says Trump". March 14, 2019. https://www.scmp.com/news/world/united-states-canada/article/3001595/us-president-donald-trump-slams-deranged.
- "Does Melania Trump have a body double?". March 28, 2019. http://video.foxnews.com/v/6013726615001/.
- "No body double: Trump blasts #FakeMelania theories". March 13, 2019. https://apnews.com/bb294ba383fe401e8f32cc08cc4fdb42.
- Abad-Santos, Alex (October 20, 2017). "The "Fake Melania" conspiracy theory, explained". https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/10/20/16503870/fake-melania-conspiracy-theory-explained.
- Scutti, Susan. "What we know -- and don't know -- about Melania Trump's procedure". CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/15/health/melania-trump-embolization-questions/index.html.
- Singman, Brooke (May 14, 2018). "First lady Melania Trump in hospital, underwent 'successful' kidney procedure" (in en-US). Fox News. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/05/14/first-lady-melania-trump-in-hospital-underwent-successful-kidney-procedure.html.
- Karni, Annie (May 29, 2018). "White House silence on Melania stokes conspiracy theories". https://politi.co/2H0fQEu.
- "Trump misspells Melania's name in tweet on her return to White House from hospital". May 20, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/19/melania-trump-white-house-hospital-kidney-operation.
- "Donald Trump misspells Melania's name in 'welcome home' tweet". 20 May 2018. https://news.sky.com/story/trump-misspells-melanias-name-in-welcome-home-tweet-11379200.
- "Was Melania Trump’s Secret Surgery Really A Breast Enlargement? Viral Video Sparks Rumors Online". August 29, 2018. https://www.inquisitr.com/5049692/was-melania-trumps-secret-surgery-was-really-a-breast-enlargement-viral-video-sparks-rumors-online/.
- Shamsian, Jacob (July 12, 2018). "A rumor that Melania Trump has a body double has been reignited after these images of her leaving Air Force One surfaced". https://www.insider.com/melania-trump-body-double-conspiracy-theory-brussels-plane-2018-7.
- Oprysko, Caitlin. "Trump accuses media of editing photos of first lady to stoke ‘Fake Melania’ conspiracy theory". https://politi.co/2J9o7Mp.
- "Trump wades into Melania 'body double' conspiracy theory". March 14, 2019. https://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/trump-wades-into-melania-body-double-conspiracy-theory.
- Yasharoff, Hannah. "Melania Trump's rep slams 'The View' body-double segment: 'Beyond petty, mean-girl spirit'". https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2019/03/12/melania-trumps-rep-the-view-body-double-jokes-sad-shameful/3142728002/.
- Sophia Rosenfeld, Democracy and Truth: A Short History (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), page 13.
- Kwong, Jessica (March 16, 2019). "Watch: Melania Trump impersonators reemerge after #FakeMelania body double conspiracy theory". https://www.newsweek.com/watch-melania-trump-impersonators-reemerge-after-fakemelania-body-double-1365479.
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