Melania stiletto-gate is a showcase for media pettiness

About 200 feet. That’s the distance between the White House Portico that exits onto the South Lawn where Marine One sat waiting to usher President Trump and Melania Trump to Texas on Tuesday to view flood damage in and around Houston from Hurricane Harvey.

The distance between the doorway and the helicopter usually isn’t relevant, but thanks to a tabloid-obsessed media, it is now. That’s the distance Melania Trump walked in stiletto heels to board the aircraft.

Politico wrote 890 words about her shoe choice and demanded in a since-deleted tweet that the White House release a statement condemning her choice of footwear for the short walk. Politico’s playbook dedicated another four paragraphs Wednesday morning.

Anyone who references a restaurant named La Grenouille (on the upper East Side of Manhattan) should probably cool it with the insinuations the first lady is somehow out of touch on her way to visit a flood ravaged hurricane zone.

The New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair and Vogue all ran editorials about the choice of footwear and what it all means in the context of who Melania Trump is and what it means while boarding a helicopter. So many “hot takes.”

Slate dared to ask, “What was Melania Trump Thinking With Her Hurricane Harvey Stilettos?” I’m no mind reader but I’m going to go ahead and guess she was thinking about walking over the helicopter.

The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan – author of such nuanced think pieces as “Hillary Clinton is owning the joke about her fashion choices – and it’s working” – attempted to explain some sort of pretense in the first lady’s shoe choice, saying Mrs. Trump “offered up a fashion moment instead of an expression of empathy.”

But perhaps even more perplexing, Givhan specifically criticized Michelle Obama in August of 2009 for being photographed dressed down and wearing shorts while on a family vacation, writing “Avoiding the appearance of queenly behavior is politically wise. But it does American culture no favors if a first lady tries so hard to be average that she winds up looking common.”

Do you have whiplash yet? The only problem Robin Givhan seems to have here is the fact that Melania Trump is not Michelle Obama.

The New York Times’ fashion columnist Vanessa Friedman posed the eternal question, “When is a shoe just not a shoe?” She also managed to include a false tweet from The Hollywood Reporter that Melania Trump actually wore the heels to tour the flood zone. Fake News alert: She did not.

She walked in them for about 200 feet. From the White House exit to the helicopter and from Marine One to Air Force One.

This was too much for Vogue as well (can’t leave them out), which wrote on its website, “This morning, Mrs. Trump boarded Air Force One wearing a pair of towering pointy-toed snakeskin heels better suited to a shopping afternoon on Madison Avenue or a girls’ luncheon at La Grenouille.”

Anyone who references a restaurant named La Grenouille (on the upper East Side of Manhattan) should probably cool it with the insinuations the first lady is somehow out of touch on her way to visit a flood ravaged hurricane zone.

Vanity Fair was forced to update their hit piece after the first lady stepped off Air Force One in Texas wearing white trainers.

Here’s the thing. We were inundated with lectures by this very same media machine, scolding us about random Facebook comments or tweets about either Michelle Obama’s or Hillary Clinton’s wardrobe or appearance – things that apparently revealed the dark sexism and racism of modern day American culture.

It is this very same media who now turns around and – like a controlling boyfriend or catty clique of Mean Girls popping their gum and rolling their eyes – lob an “Are you really wearing THAT?” at the current first lady.

This isn’t hard stuff. Either commenting on a first lady or female presidential candidate’s attire is sexist on its face or it isn’t. Which is it?

The main problem with all of this of course is not that Melania Trump walked 200 feet in stiletto heels to board a helicopter. It’s how we know these same media outlets would have reacted had it been Michelle Obama. We would have been flooded with Beyoncé gifs on social media. Twitter Moments would have celebrated the moment something like “Not even a Hurricane can stop FLOTUS from owning this amazing pair of stilettos. Yas Qween slay!” Pundits would have posted the picture with a stream of fire emoji’s.

This is the credibility hole these newsrooms find themselves in and it won’t be washed away with the editorial wave of a hand and a declaration of “whataboutism” – a magical term they somehow never thought to grace their critics with before January 20th, 2017.

It’s the choice they made to worship Michelle Obama’s every meme or fashion choice while ignoring her own tendencies toward opulence. Michelle Obama was in fact a very stylish, graceful first lady, but certainly not royalty. It’s the choice they make now to go full apoplectic over a pair of shoes with a first lady they clearly hold in contempt.

That’s all fine and good, but then spare us your lectures about feminism and female empowerment.

It’s why even Trump’s harshest critics – this one included – roll our eyes at a media constantly lecturing us to pay attention to Russia, or Trump’s business ties, while also time after time directing our attention to something as meaningless as a 200-foot walk in stiletto heels while the fourth largest city in the country is underwater.

As long as our professional media is devoting 800 words to a pair of Melania Trump’s shoes, Americans are not inclined to listen a single one about real scandals facing this president.

Stephen L. Miller has written for Heat Street and National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter at @redsteeze.