My good friend Lara Trump never told anyone that it was “no big deal” that federal workers were denied their paychecks by the 35 days of government shutdown.
I know for a fact that she deeply empathizes with those workers and their families and has spoken from the heart every time she has been asked about them. But that hasn’t stopped commentators trying to turn Lara into an absurd Marie Antoinette figure.
“Let them eat cake” moments come when public figures, especially women, seem to confirm the snobbery and delusion people already ascribe to them. Of course, the ill-fated French queen never told anyone to let Paris’ starving poor “eat cake” either. Like the original, all “let them eat cake” moments are half-truths based more on what’s already in people’s hearts than on what the women in question actually said.
In Lara’s case, it’s even less than a half-truth. Those predisposed against Lara’s father-in-law, the president, have seized upon a few seconds of footage from a 15-minute interview with online news video news outlet BOLD TV, one of many interviews Lara gave about the shutdown.
OUR VIEW: Let them eat (food bank) cake
The full conservation clearly shows a Lara very different from the Marie Antoinette fantasy her detractors have tried to build her into. Rather than dismiss federal workers’ pain, she repeatedly recognized and acknowledged their plight, telling BOLD TV’s Carrie Sheffield how unfairly she thought how they were being treated.
“It’s going to be for the future of our country. Their children and their grandchildren and generations after them will thank them for their sacrifice,” she told Sheffield, adding emphatically, “I know it’s hard. I know people have families, they have bills to pay, they have mortgages, they have rents that are due.”
Context shows Lara cares for federal workers
But that’s not what people notice in a “let them eat cake” moment. They just heard her say this is “much bigger than any one person” and “a little bit of pain” for workers, and they heard unsympathetic, uncaring snobbery.
Any serious look at the context shows Lara’s message was one of patriotism, not snobbery. She sought only to emphasize the broader spectrum of pain and suffering Americans of all kinds continue to endure from our unsecure border and broken immigration system.
Lara has worked closely with Angel Families, those who have lost loved ones at the hands of illegal alien criminals who never should have been in the United States to begin with. She learned the pain of these families — surely in excess of that felt by furloughed federal workers — all too well. That work informs her views on the wider border security crisis as much as the very real challenges that faced federal workers during the shutdown and informed her answers to Sheffield.
Unlike Marie Antoinette, Lara’s not aristocracy
Some people see Lara as a telegenic member of one of America’s most prominent families and, under the influence of politics, unconsciously associate her with this out-of-touch Marie Antoinette archetype that could not be further from the real Lara.
People like me, who know Lara well, know she comes from a small town, middle-class family a lot like mine. They know she understands the plight of everyday working Americans.
Rather than some fantastic caricature of a cold-hearted aristocrat, they know a woman with a big heart who worked tirelessly for issues she is passionate about such as veterans’ well-being and animal welfare.
“Let them eat cake” moments are never quite what their proponents imagine them to be, but in Lara’s case, imaginations have gone further afield than usual.
Pam Bondi is the former attorney general of Florida. Follow her on Twitter: @PamBondi