Ivanka Trump Fills First Lady’s Role at White House Event While Melania Trump Remains Out of Sight
Ivanka Trump helped her father host a "White House Sports and Fitness Day” event on Wednesday, while First Lady Melania Trump was nowhere to be seen for the 20th straight day
Trump gave opening remarks at the event, where he expressed his gratitude to daughter Ivanka, saying, “thanks also to Ivanka for her leadership in refocusing the Council. She’s worked so hard on this. She works hard on everything, actually.”
“She really, she’s helping to bring together all these amazing leaders and athletes who will work to break down barriers to youth sports participation and empower each child to reach his or her full potential through sport and through play,” he also said before turning around to give his daughter a hug.
Meanwhile, the first lady — who has not made a public appearance in nearly three weeks — was not present at the event, although she tweeted while her husband was speaking at the event to squash conspiracy theories about her unusually long disappearance following a “successful” kidney procedure on May 14.
“I see the media is working overtime speculating where I am & what I’m doing. Rest assured, I’m here at the @WhiteHouse w my family, feeling great, & working hard on behalf of children & the American people!” she tweeted Wednesday afternoon, presumably from the First Family’s second-floor private quarters while her husband, stepdaughter Ivanka, hundreds of visitors and dozens of White House reporters were assembled on the South Lawn just feet below.
After remaining hospitalized for the rest of the week, the first lady returned home on May 19, but has been completely out of the spotlight, which the Washington Post notes is an “unusually long absence” for even the most private of presidential spouses.
Her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, told PEOPLE on Tuesday that Mrs. Trump “has been involved in several internal meetings with staff all last week, and that continues this week. We’ve been going over initiatives and other long term planning for events such as the Congressional Picnic and 4th of July.”
The field day event, held on the South Lawn of the White House, was part of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition’s efforts to address declining participation in youth sports in the United States.
President Donald Trump, 71, along with his daughter and senior advisor, 36, hosted more than 250 children, parents and coaching staff at the event, as well as notables such as Olympic volleyball player Misty May-Treanor, former NFL star Herschel Walker, actor Lou Ferrigno and retired MLB stars Mariano Rivera and Johnny Damon.
Trump and his daughter strolled around the stations at the event, cheering on children as they played flag football, baseball, golf and soccer. The president, who has remained an avid golfer since taking office, even took a few swings himself at the golf station, striking the ball at least once.
Asked on a conference call Tuesday whether the first lady would typically host Wednesday’s sports and fitness field day, Ivanka told PEOPLE that presidents have always hosted such events in the past, and it’s “appropriate” that her father would continue that tradition.
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She also noted that the President’s Council was founded by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.
The Associated Press reported that subsequent presidents have often refocused the council on their own new priorities.
Trump issued an executive order in February shifting the council’s emphasis to youth sports, as opposed to President Barack Obama’s focus on fitness and healthy eating, the Associated Press reported.
First Lady Michelle Obama was active in the committee, launching the sports council in 2010 in conjunction with her “Let’s Move!” initiative.
She also took part in events, where she hula-hooped and jumped rope to highlight ways to fight childhood obesity.