We know presidential politics is a battlefield, and we're in the midst of one of the most contentious elections in recent memory. Still, most players tend to try to follow some basic rules of the game. Apparently GQ doesn't necessarily see things that way, if their recent profile of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump's wife Melania is any indication.
Reporter Julia Ioffe did plenty of homework on the gorgeous Slovenian-born former model's life with the billionaire real estate magnate, particularly on her hardscrabble beginnings in Slovenia, back when she was still Melania Knauss. Ioffe even describes the successful watch and jewelry designer (and mother of Trump's son, Barron) as shy and having "stunning beauty" — all true. Other elements crafted into the design of the profile render positive acknowledgements of the woman who may one day become First Lady ludicrously false.
When telling of Mrs. Trump's family, Ioffe — and the snark-obsessed editors at GQ who surely shaped the tone of the profile — cross that "fair game" line. Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz's critique of the GQ piece, "Why GQ's condescending Melania Trump profile goes too far" describes the problem well:
But the egregious part here has to do with Melania’s family back in her native Slovenia. Before her dad married her mother, according to GQ, he had to pay child support to a girlfriend after a paternity suit. Melania has never met the guy, who the author tracked down.
What, therefore, does this “secret” half-brother have to do with the potential first lady or with Donald Trump? Why is this news? Has her dad in any way tried to become a public figure or feed off the Trump candidacy? Melania asked the magazine to respect her father’s privacy, but that request was denied.
As Kurtz noted, Melania Trump responded on Facebook, and it was clear she had the profile author's number, writing that Ioffe — and we'd contend GQ as well — "clearly had an agenda when going after my family."
Mrs. Trump also pointed out that there "are numerous inaccuracies in this article including certain statements about my family and claims on personal matters." And perhaps most importantly: "My parents are private citizens and should not be subject to Ms. Ioffe’s unfair scrutiny."
Kurtz writes that he understands a presidential candidate's life is "fair game" for public scrutiny and feels that extends to their family. We're not so sure, especially when that family are private citizens in another nation.
Melania Trump is an accomplished woman in her own right, and it's clear she and Donald Trump have a mutually supportive relationship, one in which she feels like a fully empowered partner. After all, she came from humble beginnings and rose to the top of the modeling world before she even met Trump.
Ioffe and GQ took the low road in their profile of Mrs. Trump, slogging around in mud usually churned up by tabloid publications found at supermarket checkout stands. It smacked of politically-motivated contempt for Donald Trump masked as a "probing" look at his glamorous wife.
In many ways, GQ's broadside is indicative of a troubling theme in certain parts of the media today: a jealousy of the success embodied by the Trumps. Maxim, on the other hand, proudly celebrates success, and we're far more enamored with lofty accomplishments than lowly snark.
Melania Trump deserved fair treatment and respect for her own success, for how far she's come as a businesswoman and as a public figure in her own right.
Neither she nor any member of a politician's family deserves to be the target of a stealth political hit piece — and that's exactly what GQ published.