CNN on Monday aired Melania Trump’s first interview since The Washington Post published a 2005 recording in which Donald Trump brags about being able to “do anything” to women and get away with it because he is famous. Melania Trump also addressed the allegations of five women who have made sexual assault claims against the Republican presidential nominee since the tape’s release.
Melania Trump defended her husband but also threw some shade, likening him to a teenage boy, speaking critically (but generally) about “negativity” on social media, and repeatedly asserting her own independence. Below, I’ve analyzed some key moments and added context. Simply click on the yellow highlighted text to see an annotation. And if you’d like to join in the annotating, make sure you have a Genius account so you can get started.
COOPER: This has obviously been a difficult time. How are you holding up? How are you doing?
MELANIA TRUMP: I’m great. I’m very strong. I’m very confident. And I live my life. I take care of myself and of our son and my husband, and I’m doing great.
COOPER: When you — when you came down that escalator more than a year ago, the day your husband announced the campaign, did you ever expect all this stuff would come out? These allegations would be made that you would have to be sitting here defending him?
TRUMP: You never thought about that but I’m not surprised in one way because a lot of people, they’re against my husband and his run for president. So, nothing surprised me.
COOPER: Is it — it’s got to be hard, though. I mean, it’s got to be a difficult thing.
TRUMP: In one way, it’s hard because press — it’s very dishonest and it’s a lot of lies that they’ve written also about me, my husband, and you need to defend yourself all the time. As you may heard, I file a few lawsuits and I’m in the court now because they accused me of doing stuff that I never did in my life and they wrote lies. And I will not allow that. I will fight until the end, because I don’t want them to damage my reputation and my name.
COOPER: It was ten days ago that “Access Hollywood” released that tape. I’m wondering when you first saw it, when you first heard it, what did you think?
TRUMP: I — I said to my husband that, you know, the language is inappropriate, it’s not acceptable, and I was surprised because that is not the man that I know. And as you can see from the tape, the cameras were on. It was only a mike. And I wonder if they even knew that the mike was on because they were kind of boy talk and he was lead on, like, egg on from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.
COOPER: You feel the host, Billy Bush, was sort of egging him on?
TRUMP: Yes. Yes.
COOPER: Is that language you had heard him use before?
TRUMP: No. No. That’s why I was surprised because I said, like, I don’t know that person that would talk that way and that he would say that kind of stuff, in private. I heard many different stuff, boys talk. I — the boys, the way they talk when they grow up and they want to sometimes show each other, oh, this and that, and talking about the girls and — but, yes, I was — I was surprised, of course. But I was not surprised that the tape came out. I was not surprised about that.
TRUMP: Because as I said, many people from the opposite side, that they want to damage the campaign, and why now? Why after so many years? Why three weeks before the election?
COOPER: Your husband has said maybe that he felt the Clintons had something to do with it or the media. What do you think?
TRUMP: Well, it was the media. It was NBC. It was “Access Hollywood.” It was left wing and — left-wing media. And you could see that and the way it comes out is everything was organized. Every Friday, every Friday, something comes out. So, they play, they play, they play. And it was hour after hour. I watched TV, was hour after hour bashing him because they want to influence the American people how to vote. And they’re influencing in the wrong way.
COOPER: The information about your husband’s 1995 taxes were released right before the debate, first debate. And this came out days before the second debate. You’re saying that’s not a coincidence.
TRUMP: No, that was all organized. Yes. But they planned that way, because they don’t want to talk — the opposition doesn’t want to talk about WikiLeaks and the e-mails and Benghazi and all the rest of the stuff. They don’t want to — they don’t want to talk about it. So, they said let’s do something so we can hurt his campaign.
COOPER: The Washington Post was leaked the tape, and they released the tape. NBC had it for, they said they had it for several days and they were reviewing it. But you believe that it was — that NBC could have released it, you think they knew about it long ago?
TRUMP: Yes. They knew long time ago and I’m sure they did. And Washington Post: when did we hear or read any great stories from — about my husband or about me? The true stuff, the facts, the real stuff. Or New York Times? We never read — they’re bashing, bashing, bashing.
COOPER: You feel they’ve been very unfair?
COOPER: Your husband said that, he said he apologized to you after the tape and that you accepted the apology. What was that conversation like? Can you talk about it?
TRUMP: Well, when we talk in private, I’ll keep it private, and he apologized. I accept his apology. I hope the American people will accept it well. And it was many, many years ago. He’s not the man that I know. And as I many times said, and he’s said it as well, it’s very hard, especially for him, when he decided to run for presidency because he did so many stuff in his life. He was on so many tapes, so many shows. And we knew that. That, you know, tapes will come out. People will want to go against him. But my husband is real. He’s raw. He tells it as it is. He’s kind. He’s a gentleman. He supports everybody. He supports women. He encourages them to go to the highest level, to achieve their dreams, to — employs many, many women. And as you can see, it’s also — I see now, it’s a lot of backlash on the media the way he treated him.
COOPER: He described it as locker room talk.
COOPER: To you, I mean, you sort of alluded to that as well. Is that what it is to you, just locker room talk?
TRUMP: Yes, it’s kind of two teenage boys. Actually, they should behave better, right?
COOPER: He was 59.
TRUMP: Correct. And sometimes I said I have two boys at home. I have my young son and I have my husband. So — but, I know how some men talk and that’s how I saw it, yes.
COOPER: Michelle Obama, who you I know have spoken positively of in the past, she said last week about what your husband said on that tape. She said, “This was not just a lewd conversation. This wasn’t just locker room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior and actually bragging about kissing and groping women.” In terms of what he actually said on the tape, I’m no saying he did it, but what he said, the behavior described, to you — is that sexual assault?
TRUMP: No. That’s not sexual assault. He didn’t say he did it, and I see many, many women coming to him and giving phone numbers and, you know, want to work for him or inappropriate stuff from women. And they know he’s married, so —
COOPER: You’ve seen that?
TRUMP: Oh, yes, of course. It was in front of me.
COOPER: In front of you?
TRUMP: In front of me. And I said, like, why you need to give your number to my husband? I’m very strong. People, they don’t really know me. People think and talk about me, the like, “Oh, Melania, oh, poor Melania.” Don’t feel sorry for me. Don’t feel sorry for me. I can handle everything. And for this — for people talking like that, I see in the press a lot almost, like, celebrities or people, they think they’re celebrities, I would suggest to them to look themselves in the mirror and to look at their actions and to take care of their own families.
COOPER: In truth to what Michelle Obama was saying, she was saying that essentially any unwanted advance toward a woman, kissing a woman, touching a woman, without consent, that is sexual assault. That’s the definition.
TRUMP: Yes, I agree with that, but every assault should be taken care of in a court of law. And to accuse — no matter who it is, a man or woman, without evidence, it’s damaging and it’s unfair.
COOPER: She went on to say, Michelle Obama, she talked about that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them or forced themselves on them and they said no, but he didn’t listen.
TRUMP: Who didn’t listen? My husband didn’t do anything.
COOPER: No, no, I think she was talking general about —
M. TRUMP: Oh, I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised. I mean, she should also look maybe the people who supported her, what they’re doing. So, I’m not surprised she said that.
COOPER: I know you want your voice to be heard on this. So, a number of women have come forward. They made allegations against your husband. Some of them go back more than 30 years. He’s said they’re lying. Do you believe him?
TRUMP: I believe my husband. I believe my husband. This was all organized from the opposition and with the details that they go — did they ever — did they ever check the background of these women? They don’t have any facts. And even the story that came out in People magazine, the writer that she said that my husband took her to the room and start kissing her. She wrote in the same story about me that she saw me on 5th Avenue, and I said to her, “Natasha, how come we don’t see you anymore?” I was never friend with her. I would not recognize her.
COOPER: That never happened?
TRUMP: Never happened. That’s why I send them the letter because it discredited the story.
COOPER: Right. Your lawyer has sent a letter to People magazine saying they have to retract.
TRUMP: Of course, yes, because it was not true. So, how we could believe her. That never happened. I was never friend with her. I saw her — she interviewed us twice. She came to the wedding and for that story. That’s it. I would not recognize her on the street or ask her why we don’t see her anymore. So, that was another thing, like, you know, people come out saying lies and not true stuff.
COOPER: Has this whole campaign been harder than you’ve expected? I mean, I know you said you came into this with your eyes open, but has it — yes, has it been tougher than you expected?
TRUMP: I didn’t expect media would be so dishonest and so mean. I didn’t expect that. Also for me, from the beginning, I never had one correct story, one honest story. From New York Post two days in a row, they put me on the cover with the pictures that I did many, many years ago as a model. I’m very proud I did those pictures. I’m not ashamed of my body. I feel very comfortable with myself and with my body. And they were taken for a European French magazine. And in Europe, we are proud of our bodies, no matter what size you are. And it was done as art, as a celebration of female body. So, they put it twice in a row in that story, they put the date when pictures were taken wrong. They never called me when the pictures were taking.
COOPER: Right, there were allegations that —
TRUMP: That I was here.
COOPER: It was much earlier than you’re actually —
TRUMP: Correct. And suddenly becomes, I’m here illegally, I was married before. I said, like, yes, find me the husband that I was married before my husband. So, there were a lot of, you know, a lot of dishonest stuff, and that surprised me that they would not check the facts and that reporters will just write. And surprised me also because every story, it’s a female, it’s a female reporter. And that’s why when they went too far in — on the website, one of the websites and newspapers, and the blogger as well, I said, this is it, I will fight for myself, I will fight for my name. They cannot damage my name and my reputation because it’s not true. And the names that they’re calling me, they’re calling my husband, they’re calling my family, it’s unacceptable.
COOPER: In depending himself, and your husband has, again, categorically said these allegations are all false —
COOPER: — he’s made some comments about the way some of the women who are accusing him look. What do you think about that?
TRUMP: Well, that’s him. He’s raw. He will say it as he feels it. So, you know, I know he respects women, but he’s defending himself because they’re lies.
COOPER: You have a you have a young son.
COOPER: Is he aware of all this? How do you is that a conversation you have to have with your son?
TRUMP: I — I let him have a normal childhood as possible. We talk a lot, a lot about the campaign. We talk about the language because I don’t allow that he uses bad language. He’s in that age, and older boys are in that age, that, yes, they say some bad words and it’s very normal. They’re growing up. But I tell him that, you know, there are consequences as well, and he — he needs to be careful language he uses. I teach him. I tell him. That’s why it was my decision not to be on the campaign trail. I don’t listen anybody about what to do, what to say, when to say it, when to do interviews. If it would be, for example, for my husband or the campaign, they will have me on the trail all the time. They wish to have me there, but I made the decision. I will be a parent to our boy, to our child.
COOPER: Your husband said last week that you two are stronger today than you ever were before. Do you feel that way?
TRUMP: We always have a great marriage and strong relationship and he said many times, you know, he’s — that I’m a rock for the whole family and, yes, we are very strong. We are — we are two independent people, thinking on their own, and have a very open conversation. And I think that’s very healthy for the relationship.
COOPER: The other thing that’s been talked a lot about on the campaign trail, your husband is saying he believes the election is rigged, that there’s a lot of forces trying to rig it. Do you feel that as well?
TRUMP: Well, I see it how the media is portraying. I see how they’re reporting and what they want to say and what they don’t want to say. They’re going, just for example, he makes a speech 45 minutes long, they take a sentence out and they’re going on and on and on about that sentence. Nothing else. And he talks about the issues and that’s what American people want to hear. It’s about issues, about jobs, about the future of our country. And that’s what he wants to do. He wants to secure the borders. He wants to secure America. He wants to bring jobs back. He wants to bring economy back. And he’s very passionate about American people because he knows he can do that. He’s a worker. He’s a fighter. He is — he’s very passionate about it and he will not give up. He will fight until the end. And he will fight for American people as he’s fighting now for himself.
COOPER: You have one more debate coming up.
COOPER: Do you get nervous?
COOPER: You don’t?
TRUMP: No. No. I always say to him, be you. Be yourself. Be calm. Be focused. Stay on the issues because American people, they — they want to hear what you will do for them. Because we discuss many times at home and I know what is in his mind and the way he can lead the country.
COOPER: We’re three weeks to the election. If you could let the American people know one thing about your husband, what would it be? Because right now, the latest polls show I think 60 — more than 60 percent of people believe your husband made some sort of unwanted advances. What do you want those people to know? What would you say to them?
TRUMP: That my husband is kind and he’s a gentleman and he would never do that. That everything was organized and put together to hurt him, to hurt his candidacy.
COOPER: Organized by the opposition.
M. TRUMP: The opposition, yes.
COOPER: The media, Clinton.
M. TRUMP: Media, Clintons, yes.
COOPER: You think they’re working together?
M. TRUMP: Yes. Of course.
COOPER: Last time you and I spoke, you talked about what you would hope to do in the White House. Have you given more thought to that? What — where is your thinking right now?
TRUMP: Well my passion is the same, helping children, and helping women. And also I see now in 21st century, the social media, it’s very damaging for the children. We need to guide them and teach them about social media because I see a lot of negativity on it and we need to help them. It has some positive effect as well because this is the life that we live in now, but has a lot of negativity as well. And I see more and more children being hurt by it.
COOPER: There’s a lot of bullying that goes online.
TRUMP: A lot of bullying. I stopped social media year and a half.
COOPER: You did.
TRUMP: I did.
COOPER: For yourself.
TRUMP: For myself. I post some of this, but I’m not posting. I’m an attention seeker. My life is not a photo app. And I decided not to be on social media anymore because I see the negativity and it’s not healthy. It’s not healthy.
COOPER: Do you tell Mr. Trump to not tweet so much?
TRUMP: Yes, but that’s his decision. He’s an adult. He knows the consequences. I give him many advices, but, you know, sometimes he listens, sometimes he doesn’t. And he will do what he wants to do on the end as I will do what I want to do.
COOPER: Thank you very much.
TRUMP: Thank you.