Fact Check: Trump Supposedly Referred to His Wife Melania as 'Mercedes' During CPAC Speech. Here's What Actually Happened


Claim:

During a speech at CPAC 2024, former president Donald Trump referred to his wife Melania by the name Mercedes.

Rating:

Rating: FalseRating: False

Rating: False

On Feb. 24, 2024, former president Donald Trump addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an influential meeting of American conservatives presently aligned with Trump.

A portion of that speech went viral, because it was interpreted as evidence of Trump referring to his wife Melania as “Mercedes.” That claim even reached late night television, when it was featured on a Feb. 26, 2024, segment on “Late Night with Seth Meyers”:

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These claims are false, because they omit obvious context indicating that the former president was referring to a Mercedes Schlapp. Among other connections, Schlapp served in the Trump Administration as White House director of strategic communications.

The American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, is chaired by her husband, Matt Schlapp. At the beginning of the speech, Trump thanked both of them, looking to his far left as he did so:

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This indicates that Mercedes Schlapp was in attendance and likely seated in that general direction during Trump’s speech. Other views of the conference room during his remarks indicate that some sort of VIP area may have been placed in the general direction of Trump’s gaze:

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The Schlapps were not the only people acknowledged by Trump. Much of the introductory portion of his one-and-a-half-hour speech was dedicated to recognizing people of note in attendance. Trump frequently looked to the people gathered in that area to his left, commenting to them when a name he mentioned got a notably receptive response from the crowd.

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Trump did not acknowledge Melania in this portion of the speech. Along with a lack of photos of her at the event, this suggests she did not accompany the former president to CPAC. Trump’s first reference to the former first lady occurred midway through the speech. Melania’s name interrupted a story denigrating President Joe Biden’s cognitive abilities:

[Biden] trips over the machinery and […] if there’s a wall behind him, he ends up walking into the wall […]. [The U.S. Secret Service] will run up and grab him and take him off the stage. This is what we have as our president. But the worst thing is when I do that… the fake news…  I call up my wife, our great first lady. She was a great. People love her. People love her…

The crowd applauded and rose to give a standing ovation. Following that, Trump looked in the same direction as earlier, remarking — once again — about the notably receptive response. This time, he directed his comment to Mercedes. “Oh, look at that,” he said. “Wow, Mercedes, that’s pretty good.”

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This crucial context is omitted when presented as evidence of Trump supposedly forgetting the name of his wife. It is clear, given the context of his introductory remarks, that Trump is referring to the same Mercedes as earlier in the speech.

Because viral and comedic claims that Trump referred to his wife as Mercedes during Trump’s 2024 CPAC speech omit the crucial context that he was referring to Mercedes Schlapp, the claim is “False.”

Sources:

Haberman, Maggie, and Annie Karni. “Mercedes Schlapp Leaving White House Press Office to Join Trump Campaign.” The New York Times, 1 July 2019. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/01/us/politics/mercedes-schlapp-trump-campaign.html.

LIVE: President Donald Trump Speech at CPAC 2024 | NEWSMAX2. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoXKP55cC9Y. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

“Trump Calls Himself a ‘proud Political Dissident’ in CPAC Speech.” AP News, 24 Feb. 2024, https://apnews.com/article/trump-cpac-vindication-judgment-day-2c73c0e64ff5b25afd2e3b09fd75204a.

Williamson, Elizabeth. “Meet the Schlapps, Washington’s Trump-Era ‘It Couple.'” The New York Times, 30 Apr. 2018. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/30/us/politics/schlapp-trump.html.



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