CNN White House reporter Kate Bennett, author of the new book "Free, Melania: The Unauthorized Biography," claims First Lady Melania Trump is "resistance signaling" with her wardrobe.
"I think there is a certain way that Donald Trump prefers women to dress in a more feminine way," the CNNer said Tuesday. "I think he's an old- fashioned man and I think that his tastes tend toward more feminine garb. And oftentimes, I think Melania Trump wears menswear -- she wears suiting."
"You know, when she wore that white pantsuit, for example, to the State of the Union in the thick of the Stormy Daniels headlines. Sort of in the deepest parts of that moment in her life she wore this white pantsuit and it sort of heralded suffragette -- or was it maybe Hillary Clinton who liked pantsuits and why was it white, and what did it mean? Was it resistance signaling. Now, if you asked Melania Trump, she'd just say oh, I wore a white pantsuit," Bennett said on CNN's 'New Day' Tuesday.
"I think she's savvy enough to know that leaving that gray area and what she wears is something that is smart," Bennett said. "And I think she's learned how to manipulate her public persona in a way that people really do have to read into it, and she knows they're going to and that part is fascinating."
Bennett also claimed that there is a "complicated relationship" between the First Lady and President Trump's eldest daughter Ivanka Trump:
From Bennett's interview on CNN:
BERMAN: So, new this morning, this brand-new look inside the world of the first lady, Melania Trump, the likes of which we have not seen before. The list of things we simply did not know is long and revealing -- very.
The book is "Free, Melania" by our very own Kate Bennett. She joins us now. Kate, congratulations. I know you've worked on this for so long.
First up, just a question about the book and the title. It's "Free, Melania," but it's Free, comma, Melania. Why?
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, AUTHOR, "FREE, MELANIA": Right. You know, the original meme -- the hashtag #freemelania when she first sort of came on the scene that she was somehow trapped or miserable or needed freeing, quite frankly, literally from the White House -- just in my almost three years of covering her now has just proven not to be the case.
And I think -- my sort of thesis is that she is actually the most free of those people in the Trump orbit. She's able to do and say and sort of openly have a discourse and disagree with the president without facing the repercussion that we've seen him have against other staffers -- other members of his administration.
She can set her own schedule. She's not really into campaigning. She has a very small staff. She can work on her "Be Best" program whenever she feels like it.
There's no sort of -- the similar sort of accountability that other first ladies have had. And, you know, I think that has its positive side. It's sort of a weird, antiquated role being first lady, anyway, and it sort of has, in some ways, a negative side for Melania Trump.
CAMEROTA: Kate, the book is fascinating. It is filled with so many interesting tidbits and insights into her because she is such an enigma.
And so, let's start with one of the moments where she got so much attention because she doesn't speak that often but sometimes it seems as though she's sending messages through body language or through her clothing.
And the one that I'm talking about is when she was going to the border and she wore that jacket that said "I really don't care. Do you?" You have a theory and a backstory about this. What was that message about?
BENNETT: Well, you know, I -- it sort of is a long story but I really -- and, you know, as you said, looking -- covering Melania Trump, you can't analyze a bunch of speeches or comments or things she's said on the record because that just doesn't exist. So you have to look for these non-verbal clues.
I happen to think there are no Melania Trump coincidences. She didn't just grab this jacket and run out the door.
I happen to think it might have been a message to Ivanka Trump. And the two, behind the scenes, were helping to convince President Trump, at the time, to sign the executive order ending the zero tolerance policy of separating families at the border. Melania Trump very much wanted that to happen, worked on her husband, really let him know how disturbing it was. Made this trip to the border, which was negated and any positive sign of it because of the jacket.
And I -- and I think it was her way of signaling hey, hey, this is my -- this is what I worked on. I worked on this one. I used my influence and my power behind the scenes. I helped with this one.
BERMAN: I want to ask about Ivanka in just a second.
But first, on clothing, you actually think there is a message sometimes in slacks or trousers or pants -- explain.
BENNETT: You know, I think there is a certain way that Donald Trump prefers women to dress in a more feminine way. I think he's an old- fashioned man and I -- and I -- and I think that his tastes tend toward more feminine garb. And oftentimes, I think Melania Trump wears menswear -- she wears suiting. And again, I don't think there is any --
You know, when she wore that white pantsuit, for example, to the State of the Union in the thick of the Stormy Daniels headlines. Sort of in the deepest parts of that moment in her life she wore this white pantsuit and it sort of heralded suffragette -- or was it maybe Hillary Clinton who liked pantsuits and why was it white, and what did it mean? Was it resistance signaling. Now, if you asked Melania Trump, she'd just say oh, I wore a white pantsuit.
But I think she's savvy enough to know that leaving that gray area and what she wears is something that is smart. And I think she's learned how to manipulate her public persona in a way that people really do have to read into it, and she knows they're going to and that part is fascinating.
CAMEROTA: And also, speaking of Stormy Daniels, Kate, you report that the president and first lady don't share a bedroom. Their bedrooms are not even on the same floor.
BENNETT: Yes. I mean --
CAMEROTA: What is -- why is that? What's that about?
BENNETT: I think that it's really difficult to analyze anyone's marriage. It's virtually an impossible task.
But the first couple doesn't share a bedroom and I think that is not that unusual when you look at the broad scope of many marriages. We know the president doesn't sleep a lot, just from his Twitter schedule alone. This is a couple that's been together for 20 years. I don't think that there is any sort of behind-the-scenes acrimony in their marriage or didn't come of vase-throwing or anything like that.
I think that this is an independent couple. They are not joined at the hip, as her office has told me several times. She's independent, she likes her own space, she's a bit of a loner. And I think that the first couple have, in their 20 years together, found a way to make their marriage work and one of those things is not sharing a bedroom.
BERMAN: Or a floor, apparently.
I want to ask quickly about relationships, not just with the president but Ivanka, that you were talking about -- what's the relationship there? And also, with Karen Pence, the wife of the vice president, Mike Pence.
BENNETT: You know, Melania Trump and Karen Pence couldn't have been more different in terms of their backgrounds, their beliefs, their -- you know, on the surface, when they came together on the campaign, they were just two sort of polar opposite women and I think it took a while for them to get in lockstep.
More recently in the past few months, they've taken several trips together, which I have been on, and they seem to be clicking a little bit more.
But, yes, I think in the beginning there was a challenge because of Melania's past as a model and she being the third wife of the president.
The Pences are, as we know, devoutly religious. They're very traditional. They hold themselves to an incredibly high moral standard.
So I think there was a literal foreign nature to this exotic Melania Trump creature coming on the scene and that created some initial friction and not some -- not an exact closeness right off the bat. And with Ivanka Trump, this is, again, a stepmother-stepdaughter relationship. Ivanka really appreciated and liked Melania Trump in the beginning. She liked him (sic) for her father. She really thought that she was a good fit. But I think the White House years have really put a strain on their relationship.
And it's unprecedented to have two women not so far apart in age acting in sort of similar roles and those overlapping moments, whether they're trips or how they conduct their social media have created, as one source told me, a cordial but not close situation between the first daughter and the first lady.
CAMEROTA: Kate Bennett. The book, again, is "Free, Melania."