WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is not amused by the #FakeMelania conspiracy theories circulating on social media.
He spun off a new theory on Wednesday to debunk the idea that there's a body double of his wife who steps in for her at times. The "fake news" did it, he claimed without evidence.
Trump alleged on Wednesday in a tweet that photos of his wife had been altered to make them appear as though a look-alike accompanied him to Alabama last week to survey tornado damage. His favorite morning TV program, "Fox & Friends," reported on the body-double theory Wednesday as the show's hosts weighed in on a discussion that aired Monday on ABC's "The View." Hosts of the ABC program debated whether an impostor had traveled with Trump.
"The Fake News photoshopped pictures of Melania, then propelled conspiracy theories that it's actually not her by my side in Alabama and other places," the president tweeted. "They are only getting more deranged with time!"
Hosts of "The View" had commented on how the woman at Trump's side in photos of the trip appeared shorter than usual and had a different facial structure than the first lady's. One host allowed that the first lady might have been wearing flat shoes.
In fact, the 5-foot-11 first lady had ditched her customary stilettos for sneakers to walk around the rough terrain with the 6-foot-3 Trump.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on who specifically Trump thought had doctored the photos. The president showed his frustration with press coverage of his wife during an interview this week with a conservative online news organization.
"If our first lady, if I were a Democrat instead of a Republican, she'd be Jackie O times twenty. Instead, they go after her," Trump told Breitbart News in Monday's interview. Trump was referring to President John F. Kennedy's wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who often was referred to as "Jackie O" after she remarried following Kennedy's assassination.
Several factors can influence the way people appear in photos, including the angle at which the photos are taken, the type of camera lens that is used and the positioning of the photographer, said Akili Ramsess, executive director of the National Press Photographers Association.
News images are not to be altered beyond basic toning and cropping, she said.
"Manipulation is against photojournalism ethics," Ramsess said, adding that most newsrooms follow the ethics guidelines on the association's website. "Photographers or editors can be fired over such manipulation."
The "FakeMelania" hashtag has been around since at least 2017, Trump's first year in office, with Twitter searches producing numerous photos of the first lady and unfounded commentary that the woman in the images is not Melania Trump.
Toward the end of the debate on "The View," contributor Ana Navarro-Cardenas, who opposes Trump, said: "Let's have fun with Melania. She's beautiful, and we're doing this in jest." Abby Huntsman, a Republican on the panel, followed up by asking, "Does that make it better?" That prompted co-host Joy Behar, who also disapproves of Trump, to say: "We're not here to be better people. We're here to have a good laugh."
Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's spokeswoman, said the episode "went beyond the petty mean-girl spirit that we've grown accustomed to."
"People died, people lost family, people are hurting in Alabama," Grisham said Wednesday in an email. "I personally watched the president and first lady hug, listen to and comfort people who had lost everything - and the 'ladies' of The View instead chose to laugh and joke about a body-double conspiracy."
An ABC spokesman declined to comment.
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