While the man behind the statue spoke out, Trump critics mocked the damage on social media, writing: "I DON'T REALLY CARE DO U?"

By Sean Neumann
July 09, 2020 04:28 PM
First Lady Melania Trump (right) and a statue of her in Slovenia that was recently destroyed
| Credit: JURE MAKOVEC/AFP/Getty Images; Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The White House had no comment Thursday after news spread that vandals in Melania Trump's hometown in Slovenia burned a wooden statue of her on the Fourth of July.

The damaged statue of the first lady has been removed, according to the American artist behind it, who spoke to Reuters overnight.

"I want to know why they did it," Brad Downey told the outlet. Downey commissioned the statue that was made by local conceptual artist Ales Zupevc, according to Reuters.

Now living in Berlin, Downey said he does not want to press charges against whoever is responsible for burning the statue but he wants to speak with them for a documentary he's making about the chainsaw-carved statue.

The blue statue depicted the first lady, 50, in the eggshell-blue dress she wore at President Donald Trump's inauguration in 2017.

The statue was turned into a meme last year, leading to brief media attention about the art piece's appearance. It featured an abstract depiction of the first lady's face and has a blocky stature.

Melania Trump
A wooden statue of First Lady Melania Trump, set in the fields near town of Sevnica, Slovenia
| Credit: JURE MAKOVEC/AFP/Getty Images

Downey and local police in Slovenia did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Downey told Reuters that he hoped the statue, which was revealed in 2019 near Mrs. Trump's hometown of Sevnica, would open local dialogue about the complicated political situation unfolding in the U.S. — highlighting the fact the country's first lady is an immigrant and one of her husband's biggest political promises is limiting immigration.

However, locals — and online critics — offered mixed reviews upon its debut.

“The sculptor worked a long time on this,” one resident told Reuters a the time. “And she does not look as beautiful as she normally is.”

Some called the statue depicting Mrs. Trump, 50, a “disgrace.” One local last year claimed it looked like a “Smurfette,” the BBC reported then.

Others likened the statue to a scarecrow.

“I can understand why people might think that this falls short as a description of her physical appearance," the sculptor told AFP last year.

Melania Trump
First Lady Melania Trump in October 2019
| Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/Getty Images

Video of the statue being removed was shared by reporters online on Thursday morning, showing it had been charred but not completely destroyed.

The statue was reportedly removed on Sunday and was being held in storage.

Local authorities told CNN that they were investigating the vandalization as a criminal matter, saying it was "damage to property, which is a criminal offense."

Downey added to Reuters that he asked locals to not share photos of the burnt statue in order to avoid it becoming a "violent meme."

Some accounts posting the images of the statue online mockingly quoted the first lady, writing: "I DON'T REALLY CARE DO U?"

Mrs. Trump infamously wore a jacket with that phrase in 2018 while visiting detention centers along the U.S.-Mexico border, where migrant children were being held. She later argued it was a reference to the "left-wing media."