Former White House press secretary and Melania Trump spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham’s new tell-all book, I’ll Take Your Questions Now, has provided some of the most intimate details yet of the state of the Trump marriage during former president Donald Trump’s four years in office. But one anecdote in particular that Grisham shared has us once again concerned about the former Commander-in-Chief’s bullying behavior, try as the author does to paint it as a “playful” moment between husband and wife. In describing Trump’s particular admiration for James Brown song “It’s a Man’s World” (one of the songs used to calm him down in moments of extreme anger), Grisham describes one night when he blasted the song outside a sleeping Melania’s door, and it’s difficult not to read into the moment further.
Here’s the anecdote: “Once when we were listening to music, the president, in kind of a zany mood, stood up, grabbed a speaker, and walked it over to the door to the bedroom in his cabin. The room was dark, since Mrs. Trump was sleeping (of course). Trump took the speaker, turned up ‘It’s a Man’s World’ to the highest volume, and raised it over his head so that the music filled the bedroom.”
Grisham says “of course” because Melania apparently had a well-documented love for napping: what she says next is harder to understand.
“Although I was laughing, part of me thought, ‘Oh, shit, I do not want to be here if Mrs. Trump gets up,’” Grisham writes. “She never did. He did it to be playful with his wife, not cruel, and she certainly didn’t take it otherwise.”
There’s a contradiction in the way Grisham tells this story: if she truly believed it to be an entirely playful gesture, then why was she concerned about the idea of Melania awaking? To this observer, the anecdote reads like a classic intimidation tactic: blasting loud music at someone to wake them from sleep, and particularly doing so in front of an audience, sends the message of “I can do whatever I want to you, and no one will help you.”
Earlier this year, actress Esme Bianco described to The Cut the abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of singer Marilyn Manson — and mentions one of his tactics for breaking her down involved controlling her sleep schedule. “He dictated what she could wear (she says he preferred her in a short pencil dress with stockings),” the article says, “her sleep schedule (‘I was often violently shaken awake should I go to sleep without permission,’ she told the California Assembly), and when she could come and go from the apartment (she says she didn’t have a key).”
'I'll Take Your Questions Now'
Then there’s Trump’s song of choice to awaken Melania: “It’s a Man’s World.” Grisham is clearly aware of the implications of the song, hence her writing in her book that she had “talked [Trump] out of including the song in his rallies because it wouldn’t have been a good look for him.” She also pays lip service to James Brown’s history of abusing the women in his life, via an entirely unsurprising quote attributed to Trump.
“He would make us watch a black-and-white video on repeat that showed James Brown singing the song live,” Grisham writes. “The president would provide a running commentary: ‘Look at that,’ ‘That’s a great performer,’ ‘You know, they say he was abusive, I don’t know.’”
Melania never came out of her room after Trump’s stunt, per Grisham’s account, so we’ll never know how “playful” she found it after all. But those with a history of bullying or abusive relationships won’t write off this description of Trump’s behavior so easily — or at least I didn’t. Grisham says throughout the book that she wishes she had spoken out more, done more to combat the dishonesty and corruption within the White House where she served. This passage suggests she has not yet mastered that level of candor.
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