As a means of prolonging the outrage cycle over comedian Kathy Griffin’s ill-conceived presidential-beheading video, Donald Trump has enlisted an unlikely political figure: his youngest child.
It was Ivanka Trump who introduced her father on June 16, 2015, the day he announced he would be running for president. She accompanied him often on the campaign trail, spoke at the Republican National Convention, and now works in the White House, along with her husband. And Donald Trump Jr. and Eric toured the country on his behalf, too, and acted as surrogates online and on television when their support was needed, before taking over the family business post–Election Day. Even Tiffany Trump, the only child from the president’s second marriage to Marla Maples, was a part of the production, speaking like her big sister at the convention and dutifully standing alongside the whole brood when their patriarch spoke in places like South Carolina and Iowa.
But Barron, the president’s son with his third and current wife, Melania, has rarely been present.
He never took part in televised interviews with the family during the campaign. He never spoke. He never shook hands with voters or sat in the pews of a church at a caucus. He did attend some events, like the convention and the inauguration (where he memorably, adorably, was caught on camera playing peekaboo with an infant), but he was allowed to remain a child — something that was, allegedly, a priority for Melania, and conveniently allowed her to remain at home during much of the campaign and now the beginning of the presidency.
The media has broadly respected Barron’s privacy and the Trump family’s desire not to include him in political matters, even when it might be logical. It’s curious, then, that Trump decided this morning to break with his standard practice and thrust Barron into a political spotlight.
“Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself,” Trump tweeted, hours after Griffin had apologized. “My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!”
Not long after the president’s statement, TMZ published an “exclusive”: Barron, confronted with the image of Griffin holding a bloody rendering of his father’s head, initially believed it was real.
According to the celebrity gossip site’s “Trump family sources,” Barron saw the image on TV and then “panicked and screamed, ‘Mommy, Mommy!’”
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, retweeted the TMZ story.
As of press time, the White House has not returned a request for comment—but CNN did announce that Griffin would not be invited back to co-host its New Year’s Eve special, as she has done in previous years.