Before departing for the G7 Summit in Quebec, Donald Trump told reporters that Melania would not be accompanying him because she was recovering from a “big operation,” the New York Times reports.
Since Melania underwent an embolization procedure for a benign kidney condition on May 14, neither Trump nor the first lady’s office have divulged many details about the procedure or recovery. However, it was previously characterized as relatively routine, so when Melania spent five nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and then took a prolonged absence from the public eye, conspiracy theories about her well-being surfaced on social media.
And the more the president and first lady’s office talk about the procedure, the murkier our understanding becomes. On Friday, Trump made comments about the procedure that suggest Melania’s condition and “operation” weren’t as minor as we previously believed.
“Can’t fly for one month, the doctors say,” Trump said. “She had a big operation, that was close to a four-hour operation. And she’s doing great.”
As the Times notes, typical embolization procedures don’t usually take four hours. Dr. Kelvin Hong, the director of the Johns Hopkins Interventional Radiology Center, said, “the range from one to two hours would be much more likely.” If Trump were including the pre-surgery preparation time and post-op treatment in that estimate, though, then four hours wouldn’t be totally unrealistic.
Furthermore, this is the first time that an official has referred to Melania’s procedure as an “operation” in an on-the-record comment, which again indicates that it wasn’t routine.
Or, perhaps, all of this means nothing, as Trump has a penchant for exaggeration and dishonesty. Just last week, he referred to Melania’s condition as a “little problem” in a closed-to-press event, so his statements are best taken with one million grains of salt.