|She’s lied but also hung out to dry|
It’s only been a few days since Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway joined the Trump campaign in hopes of refocusing his freewheeling, fact-averse campaign and restoring a veneer of professionalism by Election Day. And Donald Trump’s new conservative media messaging masters are trying—forcing the long-winded billionaire to read off teleprompters and edging him away from some of his most incendiary stances.
But no campaign reboot is capable of fortifying a campaign built on fictions. This time, the problem stems from the candidate’s wife, Melania Trump. In a report exploring the fate of the former model’s caviar-based skin-care line, Racked inadvertently stumbled upon a 2013 court deposition in which she said, under oath, that she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.
“Would you please explain to the Judge your formal education including what schools you attended and from which you graduated?” an attorney asked, according to a transcript pulled by Racked.
“I attended and graduated from design school, from Fashion and Industrial Design School and also attended, graduated from architecture degree, bachelor degree,” she responded. (I attempted to find the same section of transcript through court filings, but the documents online were truncated. I did find a portion in which a lawyer seemed to have just asked her about her education in an October 2013 deposition, since his follow-up question was, “between the time you completed college studies around 1992 until the formation of Melania, LLC in 2009, could you tell us about what other business activities you were engaged in?”)
A spokesperson for the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Melania’s degree, or lack thereof, has come under the microscope before. Earlier this summer, the Republican National Convention published a biography of the third Mrs. Trump, in its official convention program, in which she was described as having obtained “a degree in design and architecture at University in Slovenia.” Before her Web site was scrubbed entirely and started redirecting visitors to her husband’s page, the official bio on her site boasted the same credentials.
A number of reports, however, have suggested otherwise. Politico reporter Julia Ioffe, who wrote a profile about Melania that was ultimately derided by Melania herself, noted that Mrs. Trump had dropped out after a year. The New Yorker reported the same in May, and The New York Times in July. Both publications found that Melania dropped out of college, despite her claim to have received a degree.
To be clear, it doesn’t make much difference one way or another whether Melania has a bachelor’s degree in architecture or whether she never set foot in a classroom. She isn’t running for president, or designing anything, for that matter, so her exact accreditation means very little. It’s hard to imagine that any voter would deem her husband more fit to run the country because his wife had a design degree from a university in Eastern Europe. And Melania certainly wouldn’t be the first entrepreneur to have achieved success without graduating from college.
But the revelation that Melania may have lied under oath is concerning for two reasons. First, it points to the Trump campaign’s underlying tolerance for playing fast and loose with the truth—from the candidate’s repeated claims to have been against the Iraq War, despite documentation of his past support for the invasion, to claims about the size of his fortune (or hands, for that matter), to ongoing obfuscation about the breadth of his charitable donations.
More troubling is how Melania, despite repeatedly indicating she does not want to be a public figure, has repeatedly been hung out to dry under the campaign spotlight. In the most high-profile incident, Melania was pilloried when it became clear that the speech she delivered at the R.N.C. borrowed lines that First Lady Michelle Obama had delivered years earlier. A Trump Organization staffer appeared to take the fall for the mistake, but her statements still pointed the finger back at Melania (it certainly took all blame away from Trump or anyone else on his campaign staff). More recently, the campaign limelight cast a shadow on the legitimacy of her visa status as an immigrant in the mid-1990s.
Melania, who shuttered her Web site in the days following the Republican convention, tweeted in July that it had been taken down because it no longer accurately reflected her current business and professional interests. In recent days, Trump’s campaign has left a similar black mark on his daughter, Ivanka’s, business. The media pounced on reports that her brand has a licensing agreement with a company that reportedly does not offer paid maternity leave and hires unpaid interns—both choices that seem to fly in the face of what the #womenwhowork advocate says she stands for.
But Donald Trump winning was always more important than doing right by his wife or his daughter and their ambitions. After all, he’s a man who once called letting his wife work a “very dangerous thing.”. By his own admission, Trump has, from the get-go, put his vision quest for the White House before his wife’s wishes. “She said, ‘We have such a great life. Why do you want to do this?’” he told The Washington Post in April. “I said, ‘I sort of have to do it, I think. I really have to do it.’ . . . I could do such a great job.”
College degree or not, Melania is sharp enough to have seen the bus coming straight towards her. It’s her husband who has repeatedly left her right in its path.
Emily Jane Fox is a VF.com news writer covering Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the .001 percent everywhere. She lives in New York City.