In 2015, half a year before he announced he was running for president, Trump criticized then-first lady Michelle Obama for not wearing a headscarf over her hair during a trip to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis “were insulted,” Trump tweeted. “We have enuf [sic] enemies.”
Melania Trump wore loose-fitting conservative outfits to the Islamic nation, much like Obama did during her 2015 trip to Saudi Arabia. Trump was seen wearing a black Stella McCartney jumpsuit that covered most of her arms and legs, and she accentuated the outfit with a gold belt and chain-link necklace. Ivanka Trump wore a long-sleeved floral dress that ended above the ankles.
Once photos of the Trumps in Saudi Arabia surfaced online, people were quick to dig up the president’s old tweet and point out his hypocrisy.
Saudi Arabia has a strict dress code that requires Saudi women to wear long black robes, known as abayas, and to cover their hair in public. However, foreign diplomats and politicians aren’t required to cover their hair during visits to the country.
Middle East politics expert Christopher Davidson told NBC News that it’s “perfectly tasteful and appropriate” for prominent women, including the Trumps and Michelle Obama, to forego headscarves during their visits to the kingdom.
“We’ve now had a number of prominent Western women who have visited Saudi in recent months, Angela Merkel and Theresa May,” Davidson said. “Neither of them covered their hair and they both wore trouser suits.”
Journalist Joyce Karam also pointed out that several other first ladies and female American politicians have visited the country sans headscarves in the past, including Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush. (In fact, Laura Bush briefly wore a headscarf, which was given to her as a gift, during a trip to Saudi Arabia, but she did not wear it for the entire visit, according to The Guardian.)