As Melania Trump prepared Monday to unveil her policy platform as first lady, she already found her spotlight dimmed by a new report on her complicated relationship with her husband.
Despite outward signs of strain with President Donald Trump — especially in the wake of his lawyers’ admission that he paid “hush money” to porn star Stormy Daniels — a new profile by the Washington Post has the first lady’s camp defending her marriage.
Melania’s longtime friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff told the newspaper for publication on Monday that just because the president and first lady aren’t big on public displays of affection doesn’t mean they are unhappy.
“She is a dignified, private person, and she’ll deal with her personal life in private and it’s no one’s business,” said Wolkoff. “They are not that couple that holds hands just because; she is old-world European and it’s not who she is.” (Wolkoff has not returned PEOPLE’s request for comment.)
However, the Washington Post details Melania’s independent life from her husband, from eating meals apart to traveling separately, even to the same destination. Friends tell the outlet that while President Trump starts his day at 5:30 a.m. by checking Twitter, Melania wakes up a bit later in her own bedroom and helps their son Barron, 12, get ready for school. (PEOPLE has previously reported that Melania keeps separate bedrooms at both Trump Tower in New York City and their home in Bedminster, New Jersey.)
“They spend very little to no time together,” a longtime friend of Donald Trump said of the couple.
The first lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, denied the claim, asserting that “the family spends most evenings together” when the president isn’t traveling alone, but even Melania has admitted to being “very independent.”
“We like to do what we like to do, and we give ourselves and each other space,” she told the Washington Post in July 2016. “I allowed him to do, to have his passion and his dreams come true, and he let me do the same.”
Grisham also said that a rumor making the rounds in Washington, D.C., circles—that Melania doesn’t live in the White House, but stays at a house near Barron’s suburban-Washington school—is a fiction that the first lady’s East Wing team laughs about “all the time.”
“It’s an urban legend,” the White House social secretary, Rickie Niceta Lloyd, added.
Melania, 48, is set to do her first solo press event in the iconic White House Rose Garden on Monday to officially launch the policy initiatives she will pursue in the remainder of her term as first lady.
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“Her focus all along has been children, and this launch is meant to formalize what her role will be for the next three to seven years,” Grisham told the Washington Post.
The Slovenian model previously faced criticism over her pledge to combat the rise of cyberbullying, given that her husband often attacks his challengers via Twitter.
“I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing the topic,” Melania said at a roundtable talk on cyberbullying at the White House in March. “I have been criticized for my commitment to tackling this issue and I know that will continue, but it will not stop me from doing what I know is right. I am here with one goal: helping children and our next generation.”