Melania Trump

Trump Campaign Strikes Right Note on Melania's Nude Pictures

This is probably the closest thing to a pro-sex-work stance that any major-party candidate has ever taken.


The cover of this Sunday's New York Post featured a first for a future-First-Lady hopeful: a nudie pic. "You've never seen a potential First Lady like this!" the Post promised under the headline "The Ogle Office," beside a photo of Donald Trump's third wife, Melania (Knauss) Trump, nude except for a few bracelets and stars strategically added over her nipples. The image—and more like it inside the paper—comes from a photo shoot that the Slovenian-model turned billionaire's wife did in 1995 for a now-defunct French men's magazine.

In another GOP era, such a revelation about a presidential candidate's wife might make for quite the scandal. At least it would make for some uncomfortable hemming and hawing from the campaign, plus an apology from the wife and/or candidate and platitudes about America's moral character. But this is Donald Trump's party now. And while that might mean an abandonment of limited-government principles, a tepid-at-best embrace of Christianity, and an uptick in blatant racism and nationalism, it's come with a few idiosyncratic upsides, including less tolerance for the old culture wars. Animosity toward sexuality—be it in the form of pinup pics or same-sex relationships—just isn't a motif with Trump.

In keeping with this aesthetic, Trump and his campaign's response to the Post article has been anything but apologetic. While Trump did try to distance himself from the Melania of yore—the pic was "taken for a European magazine prior to my knowing Melania," he said—the candidate also waved away the controversy. "Melania was one of the most successful models and she did many photo shoots, including for covers and major magazines," he told the Post. "In Europe, pictures like this are very fashionable and common."

In an interview Sunday morning with CNN money, Trump campaign aid Jason Miller called the photos "a celebration of the human body as art" and "nothing to be embarrassed about." Asked whether Trump got "furious" about things like this, Miller replied: "I think Mr. Trump is a little more focused on the direction of the country and what we need to do to get it turned around."

It's a great tack: paint the people making these pics into an issue look petty, prudish, and non-serious. While it might piss off the Christian conservative base, Trump has already done plenty to alienate them, with seemingly little consequence. Meanwhile, many in the Republican Party wish their party would ignore, or at least take a less aggressive stance, on things like pornography and other social issues. Making Melania's racy photos into a non-issue seems right, strategically.

On a rhetorical note, it's nice to see any major political party—let alone the Republicans—make the case that nude photos are no big deal and "nothing to be embarrassed about." This is probably the closest thing to a pro-sex-work stance that any major-party candidate has taken. In a sea of awful opinions from both major-party candidates, I'll take this as one teeny, tiny bright spot.