The first lady also attacked Democratic nominee Joe Biden, touted her "Be Best" initiative and attempted to poke fun at her husband's chronic use of social media
Melania Trump
First Lady Melania Trump
| Credit: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

Melania Trump says children in America need a better example.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters Tuesday night at a Pennsylvania re-election rally for President Donald Trump, in an exceedingly rare campaign appearance, the first lady accused Democratic lawmakers of being poor political role models for kids — an oblique deflection of criticism about her husband's own rhetoric and leadership.

"Children watching and learning about politics in our country deserved a better display of political responsibility and respect for our sacred institutions," Mrs. Trump, 50, said while calling the president's impeachment last December over his Ukraine scandal a "sham."

The first lady's speech was her first official campaign event of the 2020 race and came one week before Election Day, when voters will have their final say between Trump, 74, or former Vice President Joe Biden, 77.

"Donald is a fighter," the first lady said Tuesday. "He loves this country and he fights for you every single day."

Mrs. Trump previously delivered remarks during the Republican National Convention in August and had a prior campaign appearance canceled in March amid the novel coronavirus pandemic that ultimately infected the first family.

Melania Trump
Melania Trump
| Credit: GABRIELLA AUDI/AFP via Getty

Mrs. Trump's speech Tuesday focused largely on the coronavirus — along with a wry reference to the president's inflammatory Twitter habits — and saw the first lady cast the Trumps as empathetic toward coronavirus victims after having themselves fallen ill with the respiratory illness earlier this month.

"Like many of you, I have experienced the firsthand effects of COVID-19, not only as a patient, but as a worried mother and wife," Mrs. Trump said. "I know there are many people who have lost loved ones or know people who have been forever impacted by this silent enemy."

The first lady, the president and their teenage son, Barron, have all contracted the virus in recent weeks and since recovered.

President Trump's condition, however, grew concerning enough to send him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three days. While there he received an experimental treatment and supplemental oxygen.

The first lady and Barron recovered privately at the White House, they have said.

The president's hospitalization with COVID-19 opened the outspoken commander-in-chief to renewed backlash after he spent months lying about the true dangers of the pandemic, downplaying it compared to the flu, publicly undermining health officials' advice and insisting dozens and dozens of times that the virus would simply "go away."

"He can't even take the basic steps to protect himself," former President Barack Obama, who is backing Biden, said this week.

Donald Trump speaks in Erie, PA
President Donald Trump campaigns at the Erie International Airport in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 20.
| Credit: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

Mrs. Trump on Tuesday gave her "thoughts and prayers" to the families of the 226,000-plus people in the U.S. who have died from the virus as well as the 8.8 million people across the country who have been infected by it.

Despite the president's contradictory statements about the virus response, as cases surge in parts of the country and voters sharply disapprove of the Trump administration's choices so far, the first lady projected a vision of a united strategy and continued success.

"We all know the American spirit is stronger than this virus," she said. "We have proven that we can and will overcome this unexpected challenge."

"It is amazing to see the way we, as Americans, have come together in this time of need," she said. "Through the passionate and careful work being done in our communities, cities, and states all across our beautiful and powerful country, we will triumph over this virus."

Elsewhere, the first lady attacked Biden and the Democrats' position on the virus, touted her signature "Be Best" initiative for children's welfare and attempted to poke fun at her husband's chronic use of social media.

"I do not always agree with the way he says things," she said to laughter from attendees, "but it is important to him that he speaks directly to the people he serves."