The way in which President Donald Trump deplaned Air Force One over the weekend of April 15 has created some stir among etiquette experts.
In one photo, the president is at the bottom of the airplane’s stairs, while First Lady Melania Trump is still descending, notes The Huffington Post.
Etiquette specialist Jacqueline Whitmore explained the proper way for a couple to descend stairs. "When a man and woman are coming down the stairs the man would go before her," she said. "The logic being that if she trips or falls, the man (generally being larger or stronger) would be in a position to catch her."
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However, the president’s distance in these pictures "could be perceived as a sign of disrespect," she added. "In the photographs, what we’re clearly seeing is that Donald Trump is walking not just one stair ahead, not two stairs ahead, but a few feet ahead. She’s not being accompanied by him."
Then she gave historical examples of proper presidential deplaning:
If you look at some of the old photos of Ronald and Nancy Reagan or the Obamas, they are very close together. In other words, they’re a unit, they’re a couple, they’re engaging in this activity together. ... Whereas in this particular photo, she is clearly standing all by herself. Now it could also be a sign of self-absorption or he’s in a hurry. He’s a role model for the country, having said that -- he should be modeling, I believe, a different kind of behavior.
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Another etiquette authority, Elaine Swann, also weighed in on the issue in an interview with The Huffington Post:
The husband at the bottom of the stairs, saluting and greeting the people there, and the wife is still at the top of the stairs -- this is incorrect. ... The proper thing for him to do is to wait for his spouse at the bottom of the stairs and then take her hand and assist her down the last few steps as she comes down. This was not done.
He still is a husband first before a president. Because he’s in the presence of a woman, and this woman is his spouse, he still has to make sure that he’s nurturing his relationship. And part of nurturing your relationship is the small gestures and niceties that are necessary in terms of chivalry.
In her study of Melania's 470 Twitter photos between 2013 and 2015, filmmaker Kate Imbach found one picture of Melania with her husband, according to her report on Medium. In that one photo, Donald dominates the frame; her face is in shadow and cropped out. "She lives in the background," Imbach concluded.