Mystery deepens over Melania’s illness
THE US First Lady's mysterious illness has fuelled endless rumours and conspiracy theories in recent weeks - and President Donald Trump's latest comments have just deepened the mystery.
Melania Trump, 48, had all but disappeared from public view after an announcement made by her staff on May 14 revealed she had undergone an embolisation procedure to treat a kidney condition, which was described as benign.
The mother of one remained in a military hospital for five nights before returning to the White House on May 19 to recover.
So far, the White House has remained fairly tight-lipped about Mrs Trump's condition.
But on Friday, Mr Trump spoke with the media as he departed the White House for the G7 meeting in Quebec, Canada - an event his wife was originally planning to accompany him to.
He told reporters the First Lady had endured a "big operation" but was "doing great" - although she was unable to join him on the flight to Canada under her doctors' strict orders.
"First Lady's great. Right there," Mr Trump said, pointing to the White House.
"And she wanted to go. Can't fly for one month. The doctors say. She had a big operation.
"That was a close to a four-hour operation. And she's doing great. Right there."
Mr Trump then added: "And you know what? She is a great first lady".
Mrs Trump's noticeable absence, which has lasted almost a month, has sparked endless rumours among the public, with some believing her illness has been used as an excuse to cover up the fact she's moved back to Trump Tower in New York with 12-year-old son Barron.
Despite the rampant speculation, White House staff have refused to release any more information about Mrs Trump's illness, operation and subsequent recovery in order to protect the First Lady's privacy.
However, earlier this week the President himself hit back at the "unfair and vicious" rumours surrounding his wife's health, taking to Twitter to accuse the media of reporting "everything from near death, to facelift, to left the WH (and me) for NY or Virginia, to abuse".
"All Fake," he added. "She is doing really well!"
Mrs Trump did satisfy some curiosity after making her first post-operation appearance earlier this week.
On Wednesday, she attended a hurricane preparedness briefing at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington and was described by those attending as looking healthy and well.
Mr Trump introduced "our great First Lady" at the event, and said: "She went through a little rough patch but she's doing great.
"The people love you … thank you, honey," he added.