CAIRO (Reuters) – Melania Trump concluded her trip to Africa on Saturday by voicing support for her husband’s controversial Supreme Court pick and urging people to pay less attention to what she wears.
The U.S. first lady said the message of her tour to Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt was to show the world that “we care.”
The stylish former model also said she did not always agree with her husband’s tweets and shared her opinions with him directly, even though he did not always follow her advice.
The four-country trip was a coming out of sorts for the U.S. first lady on the world stage. It was her first major solo trip abroad and a rare example of a time when she has answered questions by reporters on a variety of topics.
Speaking in Cairo on the tour’s final leg, Trump praised her husband’s Supreme Court choice, Brett Kavanaugh, and said she was glad he and his accuser had a chance to be heard following allegations of sexual assault prior to Saturday’s Senate approval of his nomination.
“I’m glad that Dr. Ford was heard. I’m glad that Judge Kavanaugh was heard,” Trump said, referring to psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her.
Trump declined to say whether she believed Ford.
“We need to help all the victims, no matter what kind of abuse they had,” she said. “I’m against any kind of abuse.”
The first lady rarely talks to reporters, and she chose a historic site to do so, near the Great Sphinx.
Asked about her wardrobe choices, the first lady lamented the fact that her clothes drew more attention than her work on children’s issues.
“I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear,” she said, before posing for pictures in front of some of Egypt’s greatest landmarks.
Trump drew some criticism for wearing a white pith helmet during a safari in Kenya because of its association with the exploitation of Africans. That type of hat was favoured by 19th century European colonialists.
It was not the first time her clothing choices have sparked controversy.
The first lady spurred outrage earlier this year when she wore a jacket bearing the words “I really don’t care, do u?” during a trip to a Texas shelter that housed migrant children separated from their parents.
Trump flew to Cairo from Nairobi earlier on Saturday on the last stage of her visit to Africa. President Trump has been quoted as saying immigrants from Africa came from “shit-hole countries,” though he has denied making the remark.
“Nobody discussed that with me (during the trip), and I never heard him saying those comments. And that was anonymous source and I would leave it at that,” she said.
The first lady said she did not always agree with her husband’s tweets and shared her opinions with him. He listened sometimes, and sometimes did not, she said.
“I give him my honest opinion and honest advice,” she said. “I have my own voice and my opinions, and it’s very important for me that I … express what I feel.”
Trump received a warm welcome from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his wife, Entissar, at the presidential palace in Cairo before she headed to visit the Pyramids and the Great Sphinx.
She wore slacks and a tie as she stepped off the plane in Cairo, where she proceeded to the presidential palace, an ornate cream stone building with arabesque designs.
Trump made a brief stop at the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy in downtown Cairo, driving through streets nearly deserted because of a national holiday marking the 45th anniversary of Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel.
Trump has focused on her signature issue of campaigning for children with stops at a hospital, primary school and an orphanage.
Speaking near the Sphinx, Trump said that the message of her trip has been to show “that we care. And we want to show the world that we care.”
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba, writing by Sami Aboudi and Jeff Mason; Editing by Dan Grebler)