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White House defends Melania Trump’s silence on Greta Thunberg attack | US news

Melania Trump has been silent over her husband’s attacks on Greta Thunberg after protesting a mention of her own son in an impeachment hearing because Barron Trump “is not an activist who travels the globe giving speeches”, a spokeswoman said on Friday.

“He is a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy.”

Thunberg is 16.

The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, also said: “It is no secret that the president and first lady often communicate differently – as most married couples do.”

Donald Trump has been criticised before for his tweeted criticism of Thunberg. This week the Swedish climate protester, in Madrid for the COP25 summit, was named Time magazine’s person of the year – an accolade close to the president’s heart after he won it in 2016.

“So ridiculous,” Trump tweeted. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

Thunberg responded in familiar fashion, changing her Twitter biography to mimic Trump’s words but otherwise refraining from passing comment.

In turn she was widely applauded. The former first lady Michelle Obama, for instance, told Thunberg in a tweet not to “let anyone dim your light”.

“Ignore the doubters and know that millions of people are cheering you on,” Obama added.

Critics, meanwhile, targeted Trump for his attacks on a 16-year-old with an autism spectrum diagnosis and his wife for her silence on the matter.

One of the aims of the first lady’s Be Best initiative is tackling cyberbullying. The irony of such work being undertaken by a woman married to perhaps the world’s foremost online troll has been noted extensively, particularly earlier this month when the first lady reacted with anger to a witness using her son’s name in a pun in an impeachment hearing.

Impeachment hearing joke referencing Barron Trump draws angry response – video

“A minor child deserves privacy,” Melania Trump said in a tweet, “and should be kept out of politics.”

The first lady told Pamela Karlan, the Stanford law professor who riffed on her son’s name to make a point about America’s lack of titled nobility, she “should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it”.

In her statement on Friday, Grisham also said: “Be Best is the First Lady’s initiative and she will continue to use it to do all she can to help children.”