Melania Trump took a surprise trip to Texas to speak to children and officials at a shelter for migrant children.
But her message and the carefully crafted visuals showing a first lady rushing to the scene of a crisis touching the lives of children were soon obliterated by other words and images.
Moments after her tour began, photos started circulating online of the first lady boarding the plane for takeoff at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
Although the back of the coat was partly obscured in the photos, people online quickly identified it as a $39 Zara jacket emblazoned on back with the phrase: “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?”
The outrage was immediate.
The first lady did not explain the meaning of the message, though President Donald Trump said it was directed at the news media.
Following the uproar over the coat, he tweeted:
” ‘I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?’ written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”
The president’s statement seemed at odds with a statement Mrs. Trump’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, gave earlier in the day.
“It’s a jacket,” Grisham said in an email. “There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.”
Immigration advocate David Leopold said he first assumed, when a friend sent him the photos, that it was an altered photo intended to be a joke. When he realized it wasn’t, he said he was shocked.
“It mocks the mothers who have lost their children and it mocks those babies we heard wailing on that tape,” he said, referring to an audio recording of the cries of young children who were separated from their parents. “It’s inexcusable. It’s shameful.”
On Twitter, the jacket which is from Zara’s Spring-Summer 2016 collection, quickly became a meme with users sharing images of it with alternate phrases, including:
“NOVEMBER IS COMING” and “DON’T LET THEM EAT CAKE. GIVE IT TO ME.”