Donald Trump’s family presented a united front on the second night of the Republican National Convention, seeking to soften a president intent on appearing tough to voters ahead of the November election, and glossing over damaging recordings and reports of infighting.
The trio of primetime speeches by first lady Melania Trump, Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump followed the long tradition of politicians’ loved ones humanizing them before a national audience.
But the remarks from the president’s wife and children also came as Trump faces fresh feuds within his own family — all while working to stave off attacks from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign, which is leading in virtually all public polling less than three months before Election Day.
Following an evening of programming dominated by warnings of “cancel culture” and the “radical left,” the first lady used her keynote address Tuesday to offer a gentler testimonial to Trump’s character. The president is an “authentic person who loves this country and its people and wants to continue to make it better,” Melania Trump said, calling him a “husband who supports me in all that I do.”
Eric Trump, the president’s middle son and the Trump Organization’s executive vice president, spoke directly to his father in the final moments of his speech. While “I miss working alongside you every single day,” he told his father, “I am proud to show my children what their grandfather is fighting for.”
Even Tiffany Trump, the president’s low-profile youngest daughter, helped promote her father’s reelection effort in a seven-minute set of remarks. “He has demonstrated his faith in his uncompromising heart and actions. My father has made me believe that America can truly be great again,” she said.
The public shows of support followed a fraught few days for the Trump family. Over the weekend, The Washington Post published excerpts of recordings of the president’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry condemning his “lying” while in office and arguing he had “no principles.” The report came only a week after the death of the president’s sole surviving brother Robert, who Trump memorialized in a White House funeral last Friday.
Compounding the family drama, journalist Yashar Ali reported Monday that Melania’s friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who worked in the White House as a special adviser to the first lady, taped her making disparaging comments about Trump and his adult children. Melania did not address the report in her speech Tuesday, but she did lament that, “so often, the headlines are filled with gossip.”
“No matter the amount of negative or false media headlines or attacks from the other side, Donald Trump has not and will not lose focus on you,” she said. “He loves this country and knows how to get things done. As you have learned over the past five years, he is not a traditional politician.”
Melania made a similar pitch to Republicans at the party’s convention in Cleveland four years ago. In a speech accused of plagiarizing former first lady Michelle Obama, she characterized her then-candidate husband as “intensely loyal” and noted that while Trump “is tough when he has to be … he is also kind and fair and caring.”
Wealthy investor Tom Barrack also attempted to humanize Trump in a 2016 convention speech recounting their more-than-40-year friendship. The relationship between the two men has since fractured as a result of Barrack’s role as chairman of the president’s inauguration fund, which came under investigation by federal prosecutors.
Appeals from candidates’ families are a longstanding component of modern major-party conventions. While most featured speakers attest in some way to the strength of leadership exhibited by presidential and vice presidential nominees, the task of softening the top of the ticket usually falls to wives, husbands, daughters and sons.
At last week’s Democratic National Convention, Biden’s adult children Hunter and Ashley introduced their father in a video segment aired just before his acceptance speech. And the party’s four nights of primetime programming made repeated reference to Biden’s late son Beau, who died in 2015 due to brain cancer.
Biden’s wife Jill delivered the keynote address on the second day of the Democrats’ convention, speaking candidly about the former vice president’s passion for his children, as well as her own journey becoming a stepmother to the widowed Biden’s two young sons.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ family also introduced her at the party’s convention last week — with sister Maya, niece Meena and stepdaughter Ella Emhoff alternately describing her as “my very first friend,” “my role model” and “‘Momala,’ the world’s greatest stepmom.”
Playing a related part for the president were Eric and Tiffany, Trump’s two adult children least affiliated with his administration’s policymaking or his political operation. Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner both work in the White House as advisers to the president. She is scheduled to speak at the convention Thursday night.
And Trump’s eldest son Donald Jr., who is active in Republican Party politics and often appears at his father’s rallies, addressed the convention Monday in a fiery campaign-style speech that made little mention of the president’s paternal attributes.
Eric, meanwhile, took a decidedly more personal approach Tuesday night, even invoking the death of the president’s brother. “Dad, let’s make Uncle Robert very proud this week. Let’s go get another 4 years. I love you very much,” he said.