Michelle Obama explains why it was awkward to get a gift from Melania Trump

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Ellen DeGeneres scored the first post-White House talk show interview with former (forever?) FLOTUS Michelle Obama. It’s a very savvy choice. Ellen and Michelle are friends, Ellen famously shies away from political comedy so it’s not odd to keep politics out of the conversation and it’s a daytime chat show where the subjects can be less weighty and more fun – like presents! Ellen brought up the now infamous gift-exchange between Melania Trump and Michelle on the day of the inauguration. Melania arrived at the White House with a large Tiffany’s box and presented it to Michelle on the steps of the White House as the Obamas welcomed the Trumps to the WH. The problem was, Michelle visibly grappled with what to do with the box until Barack took it from her and brought it inside. Michelle explained why there was such confusion and, finally, told us what was in the box.

Melania Trump’s inauguration present to Michelle Obama remains a mystery – until now.

“It was a lovely frame,” Obama shares, in a sneak peek of the full interview airing on Thursday.

“Well, there’s all this protocol. I mean, this is like a state visit, so they tell you that you’re going to do this, they’re going to stand here. Never before do you get this gift, so I’m sort of like okay,” the mother of two tells the host.

In one of the most memorable GIFs from the inauguration, Obama awkwardly received the present and frantically looked around for a place to put it. “You brought a gift!” the first lady exclaimed as seen and heard on footage of their meeting. “I’ll take care of the protocol here,” the 44th commander-in-chief said gamely.

During her interview with DeGeneres, Mrs. Obama recalls her train of thought when she looked around in vain for an aide to hand it off to while they posed for cameras.

“What am I supposed to do with this gift? And everyone cleared out and no one would come and take the box. And I’m thinking do we take the picture with?” the Chicago native says.

“And then my husband saved the day – see he grabbed the box and took it back inside. But everybody cleared out. No staff, no one. I was like what do you do with the box?” she adds.

[From People]

When this happened, I didn’t think much about it. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that there was a breach of protocol involved. Coming from a military family, I understand the rigidity of protocol. Since this moment is the first visual exchange of command, of course there would be procedures to follow. So, who takes the hit, here? Obviously, it’s Melania. But I don’t feel good about saying that because she was probably upset and terrified by her new role. So, she thought she was making a conciliatory overture and it went all kinds of wrong. What is most unfortunate was poor Michelle was the one left to deal with it.

If the Trumps going off script, bungling a simple moment then leaving it to the Obamas to fix to restore order isn’t a metaphor for our country, I don’t know what is. As far as the frame itself, in any other situation, it’s a nice gesture and I’m sure a very pretty frame. Maybe Michelle used it for a photo of her relaxing on a yacht with Oprah, Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen, sipping a cocktail with no worries. And maybe she’s turned that frame in the direction of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where Melania is presently being held.

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114 Responses to “Michelle Obama explains why it was awkward to get a gift from Melania Trump”

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  1. Janet R says:

    I haven’t watched this yet because I cry big unsightly tears whenever I see the Obamas. Miss them so much!

    • Frida_K says:

      You’re not the only one who does this. All I have to do is see a picture of them and I get teary. Some times, I think about what it would be like to meet Mrs. Obama and tell her how dear she is to everyone, maybe even get one of her hugs, and I cry. Like right now. Just thinking about this and off I go.

      I miss them so much. We all do, it seems.

      • Kata says:

        Maybe it’s because I’m from Europe and our political system is different, but having feelings like these towards a politician seems incredibly weird to me.

      • Sojaschnitzel says:

        @Kata I’m hailing from europe aswell and while I share your lack of emotions for european politicians, I do feel like the Obamas are special, and I too miss them dearly, although I have no business in american politics.

      • Jennifer says:

        @Kata I cannot say that emotions towards a politician are ‘normal’ here in the U.S. I think most of us have watched the ‘changing of the guard’ so to speak and not thought much of it, until we were saddled with Trump and his idiocy. I miss hearing a President who is knowledgeable, not hateful, knows how to speak real words, and is not divisive. This is why the majority of us in the U.S. feel so strongly towards the Obamas. He fought for all of us, not just his rich, white friends.

    • elle says:

      Same.

      @Sojaschnitzel, I can’t recall having ever felt this way before. But this most recent election proved what a rare gift the Obamas were and are in terms of decency, honesty and decorum. Lordy, I’m getting teary just typing that.

  2. RBC says:

    I would love to know what the Obamas and Trumps are thinking about in that photo.

  3. Clare says:

    I mean, its good manners to bring a gift when you go to someones home. That’s just old school good manners you learn in finishing school – I feel like she probably thought she was doing the right hing because some etiquette expert trained her to do so when she was being de-eastern europeaned…and being the clueless goober she is, she didn’t process that this wasn’t a visit to someones home…

    • BengalCat2000 says:

      I always bring gifts when visiting friends or acquaintances. I didn’t get what the big deal with this was until I read it was against protocol. The look on Michelle’s face is so classic tho, god I miss her!!!

    • Sonja says:

      “de-eastern europeaned” – First of all Slovenia is in Central Europe and it is beautiful country and it was even back when she lived there. And yes even in Europe people do bring gifts. Seriously I would wish that people stop behaving like she escaped to freedom of USA from some poor and hopeless country. She really didn’t.

    • VecchiaSignora says:

      Eastern European know manners and learn from parents or/and family that when you’re coming to someone’s home you bring something as a gift. Guess you need some teacher to become more de-ignorant about other parts of world. This kind of thinking doesn’t make you much different from Trump.

    • Doc says:

      It’s good manners to bring a gift the first time to someone’ house, especially in Eastern Europe, especially in former Yugoslavian states. So much so that this moment becsme a meme across the region, as one of the customary gifts is a delicious chocolate box, called ‘bajadera’. And in the meme ppl across the region were speculating what’s in the box.
      But thank you for that de-eastern Europeaned or whatever that means, you’re obviously an expert on the subject, rolls 👀

      • Nanny to the Rescue says:

        I’ve lived in Slovenia all my life and never received nor gave bajadera as a welcome gift, nor heard of it being common. Memes are created by a small small minority.

        I do encourage anyone to try bajadera, tho, because it’s indeed one of the best chocolates you’ll ever get to taste. It’s made by Kraš, if anybody’s willing to look it up.

        (Kraš is a Croatian company, so Melania giving away candy of our arch nemesis would cause quite an uproar in the region. :D Damn, now I wished it were true!)

      • Kata says:

        I’m from Croatia and yes, Bajadera and the Franck coffee “brick” are standard welcome gifts.
        And we give gifts for everything, not just welcome gifts. Someone looks in your direction, give them a gift.

      • stories... says:

        I’m Slovenian as well and never got – heard of Bajadera, but we do bring-get gifts, a bottle of wine usually, and some sweets or coffee.

      • Deering24 says:

        I have no dog in this fight, but thank you guys so much for the Eastern European chocolate heads-up! 😋

    • Esmom says:

      Yes, Clare. This wasn’t a dinner party at the Obama’s home — it was a transfer of power in the highest office of the US, ffs.

      Reading up on protocol — or asking someone — would not have been that hard for Melania. They had months between the election and inauguration. Being European is no excuse.

      • Shannon says:

        Who would have thought, ‘is it okay to bring a small gift?’ I mean, come on. There’s plenty with this shithole administration to criticize without this *eye roll* I could have easily made the same mistake (the gift mistake, not the marrying Donald Trump mistake)

      • Doc says:

        Oh please give me a break Esmom🙄

        It’s the old, thought I was surrounded by my fellow racists, only to find out I wasn’t.

      • Angela says:

        I agree, Esmom, it is so easy to ask an etiquette question in advance. It just seems bizarre to me and potentially even planned in order to make the Obamas look awkward. Icky.

      • Esmom says:

        Not sure why you guys are so determined to give her a break on this but please, “anyone could make this mistake” is ridiculous. This isn’t a dinner f^cking party, this is the inauguration of the POTUS. Most people transitioning into the office bother to learn about the office in advance.

      • Morning Coffee says:

        Esmom – Michelle’s story would hold more water (and I dearly love Michelle!!) if she had not also brought a gift to Laura Bush in 2008. There was no breach of protocol other than the Obama staff apparently leaving them alone on the steps.

      • SilverUnicorn says:

        Esmom,

        He hasn’t even bothered to read the Constitution and he’s POTUS.
        He thinks Puerto Rico is a foreign country and he’s POTUS.

        I mean, regardless of the many faults of FLOTUS, I don’t hold this against her.

      • Aang says:

        Racist? So now Slovenians are a different race? I got where the op was coming from. And it wasn’t Racist. More of a put down of many American’s inability to deal with different cultures, so Melania has to be “Americanized”.

      • Kata says:

        @Aang
        It wasn’t racist. Xenophobic? Probably. Because there is and incredible amount of xenophobia directed at Melania. Let’s not pretend she wouldn’t be treated differently were she from France or Scandianvia or any other “fancy” European country.

        There are so many things to criticise Melania for, but the insults hurled at here are usually about her profession or ethnicity, which is especially sad considering they’re coming from the left, who should be above that.

      • Taxi says:

        Hey, the power had already transferred @ the Inauguration when trumpo took the Oath of Office. When Melania handed the over the box, Michelle was a private citizen, Mel became flotus the minute dumbo finished his swearing in.
        It was a hostess gift, perfectly courteous & appropriate.

        Enough! No matter how you feel about the big DT, Melania didn’t do anything wrong. Michelle wasn’t expecting a more charming gesture than other brand new flotuses (floti?) have offered & got momentarily flustered. End of story & no big deal.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        Taxi, overall I don’t disagree that it wasn’t a big deal…but a minor correction. This took place BEFORE the swearing in. Trump had not yet taken the Oath of Office. Michelle was still First Lady.

    • boredblond says:

      On inauguration day, it isn’t their home..they’ve already moved their stuff out. The gift was not given because of manners, it was done for the camera (hell, he named his kid after the blue box)..it would’ve been good manners to send the gift to the Obama’s new home as a house warming gift, but if the press wasn’t there to give them credit, it wouldn’t ‘count’..

    • Dr. Mrs. The Monarch says:

      It wasn’t a gift. It was blatant and shameless product placement. I bet Tiffany’s either paid Melania a ton of cash to have their highly visible product placed in front of millions of viewers, or they gave her free jewellery. It doesn’t have to be claimed publicly either because it was before the swearing in ceremony.

      Remember this is the same Melania who launched a lawsuit against a newspaper claiming that they were harming her “potentially lucrative 4-year business opportunity” as a model/spokesperson for brands during her term as First Lady. It is more “grift” than gift.

      The Trumps had been to the WH several times before. A thank you gift could have been exchanged at any private moment, but this was a big show for the cameras and was very gauche and tacky.

      • Lacia Can says:

        Oh I never thought of that. Here I was thinking, “It’s a minor breach and she meant well.” I can be so naive. Of course she was being paid. Otherwise she would have cleared it with someone first (and been told not to do it). These schmucks never stop the grift, do they?

    • Kata says:

      The amount of xenophobia directed towards Melania in the comments is always surprising, especially because people here generally like to pat themselves on the back for being so tolerant.

    • noway says:

      Michelle Obama gave a gift to Laura Bush when the Obama’s first came in office too. In fact there was a not so funny quip by Matt Lauer who said I bet it’s not Tupperware. I think it was just the timing of this gift that was kind of funny. I also don’t think she was trying to blame anyone for the protocol snafu. Although, I do understand once you are leaving the presidency, the people that handle everything for you just disappear. I think she might have been alluding to that a bit, and saying hey we’re still here. I still remember seeing the pictures of Joe and Jill Biden getting on the Amtrak train at Union Station, like any regular person. As Vice President he doesn’t have secret service detail anymore, so it was so striking to see.

    • reverie says:

      Whoa, whoa, whoa. What a disgusting remark to make. As someone from the former Yugoslav, but raised in North America, I can tell you that Eastern European manners are light years ahead of North American manners. In fact the first difference I noticed between myself and my peers as a youth was their complete lack of manners and respect when in someone else’s house. I think you need to rethink the “snark” because it’s not cool and there is zero justification for it.

    • True says:

      And you are a great example from where the jokes about ignorant Americans come from.

      • Kitten says:

        Because if ONE person from a country says something inappropriate, then SURELY the other 325 million inhabitants of that country must do the same thing, amirite? Ah yes, but they’re just “jokes” and only about “ignorant” Americans at that, so no need to get offended.

        Honestly, threads like this crack me up. The hypocrisy regarding the ridiculously narrow-minded generalizations that people have of other countries is too funny to even take seriously.

        One thing many of these comments prove for sure: EVERY country appears to have no shortage of judgmental people who (for whatever reason) seem to only understand other countries via sweeping generalizations and silly stereotypes.

      • True says:

        Well, I did call out ONE (hence the YOU in my sentence) and not the other 325 million – you did that. Yes, some are jokes, some are true (and that goes for every country), but this wasn’t the first thread of this kind on this site.

        The ridiculously narrow-minded generalizations that people have of other countries is too funny to even take seriously. THIS. You nailed it. This is what Im talking about, and its all over here. Just because she sounds Russian it doesn’t mean she is Eastern European (which was said and pointed out on most of Melania threads).

        Slovenia is next to Italy, if people bothered to look at a mapp, and It’s at the crossroad to Southeastern Europe and Southern Europe what means it is located in Central Europe..

        Eastern Europe is not even that close to be confused as such. But regardless, the prejudice about those people and countries are just laughable, which are a constant present whenever Melania is in question, from no less then from the so called woke and progressive people, who claim to be above that (in this case the ONE person I was addressing) you hear such xenofobia, and ignorance.
        So please give me a break, when I get frustrated about something that is being a pattern on this site, when European countries are concerned that are not France or England.

        Honestly, threads like this crack ME up.

      • Kata says:

        You can’t generalize, but come on Kitten, posts like these are all over the comment section whenever Melania is mentioned. It’s not hard to see that many Americans have a lot of prejudice towards Eastern Europeans ( or those that get lumped in with Eastern Europeans the way Melania does).

    • Cat says:

      Didn’t Michelle bring a gift to Laura Bush, I have seen the video of Laura accepting the gift. Michelle should have done the exact same thing. Accept the gift, say thank you and tuck it under her arm like Laura. Why make such a big deal over a gift? Simple home training teaches one how to accept a gift.

    • Milla says:

      Well you sound just like trumpster. Cos that ignorance is what made USA sink. Learn history and geography.

      I really can’t deal with those attacks on Slovenia and Yugoslavia. It is the same as racism or any other bad ism which is not what democracy is about.

  4. MostlyMegan says:

    I remember this moment and I felt sorry for Melania. However, I don’t feel sorry for her now. Why does Melania get sympathy while Ivanka gets ‘complicity’? Time to stop giving Melania a pass, if she wanted to leave, she would.

    • Elkie says:

      Ivanka actively took a WH advisor role (at great public expense) and claimed to be a “moderating force”, whereas Melania is just generally useless (at great public expense).

    • Annabelle Bronstein says:

      But there’s no indication that Melania has any influence over policy (or anything at all). FLOTUS is not a paid office. Ivanka has an official White House position, is a senior adviser, and directly influences policy. The Press is right to be more critical of Ivanka than Melania.

    • Betsy says:

      Because Melania reminds me of an abused spouse.

      I believe Ivanka was an abused child, but she has continually made decisions to remain in the orbit of criminals. Her father. Her brothers. Her spouse. Wendy Deng. Money launderers.

    • Flk says:

      There’s no way Melania is just free to go. And I’m 100% sure he’s abusing her.

    • noway says:

      Ivanka is not complicit, although the SNL skit was funny. Ivanka is an actual participant in this farce. I think she only gives lip service to issues like climate change, immigration rights, women’s right, but when push comes to shove she doesn’t care. Read her book this is her m.o.

      Now Melania has been complicit. Just sticking up for what he said on the Access tape or how he fights back nasty when people attack him is making her complicit. I mean I could have sympathy for her if she was Trump’s first wife and very young, and didn’t live in the social circle he did and didn’t know him well. Still she did, and she chose him so no sympathy from me. But not really sure what she could do about him even if she didn’t want to be complicit. Now she is being very quiet and not saying anything, so I do kind of feel like she may realize look at the crap I’m in. So I won’t go after her. After all there are so many people who are more involved in his crap to go after. She is truly the very definition of a little fish in this pond.

    • Milla says:

      You are forgetting something. No 45 was friends with Clintons as well as other Democrats. He was often described as charming. He was seen as Manhattan man as presented in SATC. I am not saying Melania loved him, but maybe she really did feel sth. Rich and charming dude, who wasn’t old when they met, with cool friends, he charmed the pants off her. At least, it’s how i see it. She was just another model.

      I do feel bad cos she doesn’t look happy. Her smile isn’t honest.

      • Flk says:

        He’s high on power these days and not even trying to hide how awful he is but I can believe he was charming to her whrn they met. Narcissists can be very charming when they want something from you. Also, if abusers were horrible to their partners from the start, no one would fall for them. It’s a classic pattern that they sweep you off your feet, then start to abuse you once you’re hooked, and escalate when they have you locked down (living together, married, pregnant etc).

  5. BlanktFort says:

    Look, I think it was a nice gesture by a woman who is/was expecting to be a trophy wife, not a politician’s wife.
    I think she was making an attempt, and I bet it’s a decent frame, AND it gave us all the brilliant shots of Michelle.
    Melania shouldn’t be getting heat for it.

  6. Nanny to the Rescue says:

    I wouldn’t really blame any of the first ladies for this. It was a nice gesture to bring a gift even if it was a breach of protocol. Sure it made everything awkward but only because people over-analyze the videos. It was only a couple of seconds and everything went well.

  7. AB says:

    I love the Obama’s and miss them, but Michelle is a little off on this. If you look up Obama’s inauguration on Youtube, Michelle hands Laura Bush a gift. … so there was precedent for this first lady gift giving…so her saying this just gives all the Obama haters something to complain about.

  8. Renee2 says:

    I think that she probably didn’t want to take the gift from them and was trying to cover up the awkwardness. After all of the racist sh*t that this woman and her husband said Barack Obama and other Americans??? I wonder where that frame is now, on the donation pile for Goodwill?? If that were me (ha!) I would have wanted to leave it in the trash at the WH but I certainly wouldn’t want it in my home.

    • Honey says:

      I agree. Michelle is faster on her feet than to be paralyzed by oh my what do I do with this unexpected gift that you brought . . . and Melania could have brought it as a peace offering or because she came to like and admire what she saw of Michelle over the last 8 years.

      In retrospect, that whole day was a mighty awkward affair. It was like your loud, drunk, tacky, crass ass uncle had arrived with his then side-piece but now wife that he had cheated with when he was with your favorite aunt by marriage. You didn’t want to invite his drunk *ss because you really don’t like him (and he knows it) but you invited him because an older relative that you love the best loves him despite everything he’s done, so you really only invited him to please that older relative and to make him/her happy but your uncle is acting like this was a “real” invitation from you but knows it’s not but is doing sh*t to f*ck right off the top to f*ck with you. You tolerate his over-the-top, bogus *ss for a minute because of your love and devotion to the older relative BUT you are waiting for him to do one thing—just one thing so that you can kick his *ss out.

      . . . thats how that moment played out to me😊☺️

  9. PunkyMomma says:

    “… the 44th commander-in-chief” *sobs openly*

  10. Nicole says:

    Maybe had Melania spent any time preparing for the role she would’ve known not to bring a gift. My goodness.
    That whole thing was awkward and I’m sure Michelle does not have anything good to say about them since they spent years attacking her husband.

  11. AnnaKist says:

    🎼🎹🎤”She’s a lady. Woh, woh, woh, she’s a lady. Talking about Michelle the lady…” 🎤🎹🎼 She’s all class.

  12. xena says:

    I expected somebody to take the box quietly and quickly from Michelle Obama. It became newsworthy because this didn’t happen.

  13. tracking says:

    I am always amazed when I see this footage, and recall how gracious the Obamas were toward these horrible people, *both* of whom spewed that birther bullsh@t.

    • Really? says:

      Maybe it was weird to accept a “gift” from someone who attacked your husband for not being a real American and thus was not a legitimate President. This same someone also plagiarizes your past speeches. It isn’t necessary for the Obamas to be nice to the Trumps. Part of the reason that the Obamas and Bushes got along was because their kids got along. Can you imagine Trump condoning any sort of interaction between the Obamas and Barron? His Nazis supporters would have a fit. Michelle is too smart to have forgotten Charlottesville, Steve Bannon or Jeff Sessions, and a Tiffany picture frame won’t make up for it.

  14. Shannon says:

    I think it was a nice gesture and, unfortunately, the aides cleared out when it seems one of them could easily have grabbed the box. I hate the Dotard as much as anyone, but I can’t hate his wife for thinking to bring a gift.

  15. Cora says:

    I don’t understand why this was a controversy or why Michelle said, “never before do you get this gift.” Michelle Obama brought Laura Bush a gift, standing at the top of those very same stairs, when the Obamas arrived at the White House on inauguration day 2009. Identical circumstances. The boxes were even the same size. I think the reason Melania did it was because Michelle did it 8 years before. There is youtube video and even photographs of the very same moment and gift exchange at the top of the steps in 2009. If you’re wondering what Michelle gave Laura, it was a leather journal with an engraved silver pen. Michelle was praised for the gesture at the time.

  16. Evie says:

    Actually, Michelle Obama was the one who set the precedent: she gave Laura Bush a gift back in 2009 when the Bushes were departing the White House.

    It was a nice gesture by Michelle in 2009 and Melania probably thought it would be the right thing to reciprocate. No big deal. I like the way Barack saved the day though :-) and handed the box off.

    The tradition of the incoming President and First Lady both being invited into the White House by their outgoing predecessors for coffee and conversation dates back to Woodrow and Edith Wilson, when they welcomed Warren and Florence Harding on inauguration day March 4, 1921. President Wilson had had a stroke and couldn’t walk out to greet the Hardings.

  17. Molly says:

    I hope Michelle smashed that goddamned frame to absolute bits.

  18. Lila says:

    Did you know that after a gift has been accepted by the President and First Lady from foreign or domestic dignitaries it is stored in the National Archives while they are in-office. Once their term has ended the collection moves to a Presidential Library. Occasionally a president may not want to part with a particular item and they are given the opportunity to purchase it back at market value. The Obamas were still in Office during that exchange of the gift until Trump was sworn in. That gift may be at the National Archives.

    • jetlagged says:

      That is a very excellent point. I think there was an episode of the West Wing that used this particular bit of regulation as a plot point.

      I wonder if there is even anyone in the Trump White House even paying attention to stuff like this. He fired the White House Usher to bring in his own lackey, and I wonder how many other veteran government staff he’s gotten rid of.

    • PunkyMomma says:

      I hope someone put a picture of the crowd at Obama’s first inauguration into the frame before it went to the National Archives.

  19. G says:

    Michelle did the same thing and brought a gift for the Bushes when they arrived at the White House. Guess she forgot that.

  20. Kelly says:

    No, Melania does not obviously have to take the hit. Honestly, I like Michelle but I thought her response was rude, as was this re-telling. Also, she was an ok First Lady but not the best.

  21. Plantpal says:

    No No No No this is all on Mrs Obama. Go look at the video from when SHE was the newbie. When they took over from the Bush presidency. Mrs Obama brought a gift https://youtu.be/i9Vw7Mx21A0 and mrs bush handles it with diplomacy. This was all on Mrs. Obama how clumsy it was. I don’t care for the trumps, but I cannot allow this fallacy to continue without protest. Go see! It’s an Associated Press video, if my link doesn’t work. This is NOT ON MRS TRUMP!!!

  22. Sandy says:

    I really don’t understand some of the comments on here. It is not just Europe where bringing a gift is considered polite, it is consider polite in America too. Seriously critizing this women for a thoughtful gesture is really ugly.