WASHINGTON — In a time of several threatening international crises, an explosive exchange came out of the Trump White House on Monday that had nothing to do with a foreign adversary. The target was an ex-wife.
Melania Trump’s East Wing lashed out at President Donald Trump’s first wife, Ivana, for jokingly referring to herself as first lady.
Ivana Trump — the mother to Trump’s oldest three children and the wife whose divorce from Trump elevated him to a constant tabloid fixture — was promoting her new memoir during an interview that aired on “Good Morning America” when she said she had a “direct number” to the White House and called the president every two weeks.
“I’m basically first Trump wife,” the Czech-born Ivana Trump said with a laugh. “I’m first lady, OK.”
This joke apparently struck a nerve with the actual first lady.
Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s communications director, unleashed a scorching statement against the first lady’s marital predecessor.
“Mrs. Trump has made the White House a home for Barron and the President. She loves living in Washington, D.C., and is honored by her role as first lady of the United States,” Grisham said in an email. “She plans to use her title and role to help children, not sell books.”
Grisham added a tabloid-like coup de grâce: “There is clearly no substance to this statement from an ex, this is unfortunately only attention-seeking and self-serving noise.”
Such media fisticuffs were, until Monday, an unusual move for Melania Trump’s East Wing. But they are second nature to certain members of the Trump family, purveyors of high-profile marital drama since 1992, the year Trump and the first Mrs. Trump, a former model, ended their marriage in what she called “brutal” divorce negotiations. Trump’s second wife, Marla Maples, ensured another dizzying round of press. (The first Mrs. Trump said in the interview that she only refers to Maples as “The Showgirl.”)
Among other revelations, the first Mrs. Trump said that she uses her phone calls with the president to encourage discretion — “Sometimes I tell him just not to speak that much,” she said — and that she didn’t mind if her children engage in the sort of Twitter-taunting their father enjoys.
“If they are losers,” Ivana Trump said of potential Trump family Twitter targets, “they are losers, OK? And I don’t mind it.”