Photo: Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images
I have never put much stock in the “Free Melania” memes. While they can be amusing, I don’t think the woman who responded to the family separation crisis with an offensive coat and is clearly comfortable skipping all of Donald Trump’s indictment-related festivities needs or deserves our help.
But Melania Trump’s latest business venture has forced me to reconsider the possibility that she is trying to send us coded messages. Today on Truth Social, the former First Lady announced the release of her new NFT collection by “retruthing” a video of a digital collectibles titled “Yearning to Breathe Free.”
I know this sentence probably makes no sense to those of you who aren’t down the MAGA online rabbit hole, so allow me to break it down. Melania started hawking “non-fungible tokens” well before her husband got into the “digital trading card” game late last year. This is a low-effort venture for Melania; she usually just reposts Truth Social messages from USA Memorabilia, which bills itself as the “premiere NFT platform featuring United States memorabilia.” (While Truth Social posts are too janky to embed, you can check out this identical Twitter post to experience the full glory of the “Yearning to Breathe Free” NFT being unveiled to “Star and Stripes Forever.”)
How do we even know this is Melania’s NFT? Good question. Her name doesn’t appear anywhere on the USA Memorabilia page selling the six-NFT “1776 Collection.” But Melania claimed NFTs as hers in a FoxNews.com “exclusive” that looks an awful lot like a press release. It reads:
Mrs. Trump is rolling out “The 1776 Collection,” a six-piece range of NFT digital collectibles comprised of images across the United States.
The NFTs include the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore and the Liberty Bell. Each piece includes “a patriotic-themed music track.” According to the former first lady’s office, each collectible represents an aspect of Americana and was designed to acknowledge the “foundations of American ideals.”
The article notes that a “portion of proceeds will go toward Fostering the Future,” a “Be Best Initiative” that supports children in foster care. It does not say what portion, so it could be anywhere from 1 percent to 100 percent of the proceeds.
Melania also provided Fox News Digital with a confounding quote about her NFTs.
“The 1776 Collection of artwork draws inspiration from several iconic landmarks of our nation, which I had the privilege of visiting during the time I served as first lady,” Trump said. “Each piece provides a view into our nation’s history, culture and patriotism.”
While Melania lived in New York City for many years, and has undoubtedly seen Lady Liberty from afar countless times, I can’t find any record of her visiting Liberty Island and reviewing the plaque featuring Emma Lazarus’s poem as First Lady. A Google search reveals there are two notable connections between “Melania Trump” and “the Statue of Liberty.” First, the Trumps intentionally skipped a gala celebrating the opening of a new Statue of Liberty museum in 2019 because too many of their “political nemeses” were on the guest list. Second, Therese Patricia Okoumou, a woman who climbed the Statue of Liberty on July 4, 2018 to protest Trump’s immigration policies, mocked Melania’s infamous “I REALLY DON’T CARE DO U?” jacket during one of her subsequent court hearings.
So what the heck is going on here? Is Melania saying that she wants to “breathe free” by distancing herself from her husband’s legal drama? Is she telling us that five years later, she hasn’t forgotten Okoumou’s July 4 stunt, yet her indifference to the plight of migrants is stronger than ever? Is it a sign that no one on Melania’s team reviewed this social media post closely, and they don’t care about the implications as long as the checks keep rolling in?
I do not know the answers to these questions, but I do know that I’ll be forcing everyone at my Fourth of July barbecue to share their opinions on the classic Melania question: “What is she thinking?”