Like other former first ladies, Melania Trump paid tribute to Rosalynn Carter, who died Sunday at age 96.
But, as with anything related to the Trumps and their fraught relationships with current and past occupants of the White House, Melania Trump’s statement about Rosalynn Carter was overshadowed by something incendiary that her husband said. In this most recent case, Melania Trump’s description on X of Rosalynn Carter’s “meaningful legacy” and her “devotion to her husband, family, and country” came the day after her husband mocked Jimmy Carter at an event in Iowa for his 2024 presidential campaign, USA Today reported.
In criticizing Joe Biden, Trump said on Saturday “the happiest person anywhere in this country right now is Jimmy Carter because his administration looked brilliant compared to these clowns,” USA Today reported. “Compared to Biden, Jimmy Carter was a brilliant, brilliant president.”
While some, including Caitlyn Jenner, praised Melania Trump for her “classy statement” about Rosalynn Carter, others criticized her for expressing “fake sympathy,” noting that Trump had mocked Carter at his rally. One person also said that Trump did so, even after it was reported that Rosalynn Carter had entered hospice care. “You are both truly horrible people,” this person said.
Indeed, Trump’s joke about Carter came one day after the Carter family publicly confirmed that Rosalynn Carter had entered hospice care.
Two days later, Rosalynn Carter was dead. The 99-year-old Jimmy Carter, who also is in hospice care, lost his wife of 77 years. Carter, who served as president from 1977 to 1981, said in a statement that he had lost his “equal partner in everything I ever accomplished.”
Jimmy Carter was no fan of Trump, saying in 2019 that he saw him as an “illegitimate president.” The 39th president also appeared to criticize Trump on the first anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.
Without naming Trump, Carter wrote in a New York Times op-ed about how “a violent mob, guided by unscrupulous politicians, stormed the Capitol and almost succeeded in preventing the democratic transfer of power.” He also said that democracy itself “has become dangerously fragile” because “promoters of the lie that the election was stolen have taken over one political party and stoked distrust in our electoral systems.
Upon learning of Rosalynn Carter’s death, Trump issued his own statement on Truth Social that stuck a far different tone than his remarks on Saturday. He said she had “earned the admiration and gratitude” of the nation.
“From her days as a U.S. Navy spouse, to the Georgia Governor’s Mansion, to her tenure as First Lady of the United States, and her later work at the Carter Center and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, she leaves behind a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment and national service,” Trump said.
Funeral plans for Rosalynn Carter have been announced, but it’s not clear yet whether it will involve a gathering of presidents and first ladies. A funeral service “for family and friends” will take place at the Maranatha Baptist Church in their hometown of Plains, Georgia.
All five living presidents and their wives, including then-President Trump and first lady Melania Trump, gathered in December 2018 for the funeral for George H.W. Bush at Washington National Cathedral. But the presence of the Trumps made for some awkward moments, the New York Times reported at the time. Conversation in the presidential pew appeared to cease when the Trumps arrived. The Obamas offered handshakes and tight-lipped smiles, while Hillary Clinton stared ahead and did not make eye contact with the man who defeated her in the 2016 presidential election.
For the funeral of Barbara Bush in April 2018, Trump stayed away, saying he didn’t want his presence at the service in Houston to create “disruptions,” the New York Times reported. Barbara Bush also was critical of Trump, CNN reported, saying during his 2016 campaign: “He sort of makes faces and says insulting things. He’s said terrible things about women, terrible things about the military. I don’t understand why people are for him, for that reason.”
Melania Trump, however, attended, sitting in the front pew with the Obamas and the Clintons and helping to create imagery that “was impossible to ignore in this moment of bitter divisions in American political life,” the New York Times said. The Carters, though, did not attend Barbara Bush’s funeral, citing prior commitments.
After Jimmy Carter entered hospice care in February, his grandson, Jason Carter, told USA Today that both of his grandparents were nearing an end.
“They are together. They are at home,” Jason Carter said in September. “They’re in love, and I don’t think anyone gets more than that. I mean, it’s a perfect situation for this time in their lives.”