One of the most enduring, low-stakes mysteries to come from the Trump White House is why Melania Trump chose to wear a jacket reading, “I really don’t care, do u?” to visit migrant children being held at a Texas detention center in 2018. Well, according to a new book by Katie Rogers, titled American Woman: The Transformation of the Modern First Lady, From Hillary Clinton to Jill Biden, the jacket was intended as a message for Ivanka Trump specifically, with whom Melania was (allegedly) feuding, per the New York Post.

In 2018, they “were locked in a quiet competition for press coverage,” Rogers wrote in her book, citing former administration officials who claimed that the message was directed at Ivanka. Kind of like the sartorial equivalent of a vague Instagram story calling out “fake friends” after a falling-out. If this is true, the move obviously backfired. Because anyone from Truman Capote’s swans to Bravo’s Real Housewives and Selena Gomez could have told Melania that the best way to win a publicity war with a nemesis is probably not to make oneself look like the insensitive heel, which the jacket definitely did. Why not just plant an unflattering story in the tabloids? What’s wrong with a good old-fashioned burner account? I’m not advocating for these things; I’m just confused.


According to Rogers’s book, the first lady vs. first daughter power struggle began with Ivanka’s attempts to take over the White House’s East Wing (traditionally the domain of the First Lady), while Melania was still in New York City to let her son, Barron, finish out the school year. “[Melania] was aware that her husband had suggested that his eldest daughter would be helping to share the responsibilities of being first lady, and this was not a development that pleased her,” Rogers wrote. So, I guess, Melania decided to wear a jacket with a rude message to visit children separated from their parents in the hopes that Ivanka would see it and be offended.

There have been other explanations, of course. In August of 2018, The New York Times reported that a person close to Melania claimed “the jacket was actually directed at anyone—both outside and inside the White House—who wanted to criticize her decision to visit the children in light of the administration’s aggressive immigration policies.” In 2020 a book by Melania’s former friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff claimed that Melania simply enjoyed “driving liberals crazy.”

Maybe that means Ivanka advised her stepmother not to go on the trip because she thought the optics would be bad, so Melania doubled down? I feel like I’ve never understood Melania Trump less, honestly.

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