First Lady Melania Trump, who has said she wants to make a campaign against cyberbullying a key part of her time in the White House, is defending President Donald Trump's widely-condemned Twitter attack against Morning Joe co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, in which he specifically called out Brzezinski's appearance.
"As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder," Melania Trump's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
In a pair of Twitter posts on Thursday morning, the President referred to the two as "low I.Q. Crazy Mika" and "Psycho Joe," and described an encounter in which he said they wanted to join him at Mar-A-Lago and Brzezinski was "bleeding badly from a face-lift."
Trump has a history of commenting on the appearances of female reporters, and the tweets were condemned by many, including members of Trump's own party. "Please just stop. This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office," Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse wrote on Twitter.
"The President's tweets today don't help our political or national discourse and do not provide a positive role model for our national dialogue," Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford said in a statement.
In a rare appearance on the campaign trail last November, Melania Trump said she would use her platform in the White House to condemn cyberbullying. "Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers," she said at the time. "And it is absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone with no name hiding on the Internet."
When asked about Melania Trump's cyberbullying initiative, Grisham told Fortune: "She continues to be thoughtful about her platform, and we look forward to announcing something in the coming weeks."
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, also defended Trump's tweets. "I don’t think that the president’s ever been someone who gets attacked and doesn’t push back," she said on Fox News. "This is a president who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by a liberal media and the liberal elites within the media or Hollywood or anywhere else.”
Huckabee Sanders said Trump was reacting to what she called the unfair attacks that Morning Joe has repeatedly leveled against the President. Brzezinski and Scarborough, who have been vocal in their criticism of Trump on the air, were poking fun at the Trump on the show Thursday, this time about the Washington Post report that fake TIME magazine covers of Trump had been hung in several of his golf clubs. (TIME and Fortune are both owned by Time Inc.) They showed a photo of the fake cover, and Brzezinski joked, "he's covering his hands because they're teensy." Trump infamously said during the 2016 election that his hands were not indicative of the size of his private parts.
"I’ve seen far worse things come out of that show," Huckabee Sanders said. "Again, directed not just at the president but everyone around him. Personal attacks, mean, hateful attacks and again this president isn’t gonna sit back and not pushback and he’s gonna fight fire with fire and I think that’s exactly what he did today.”