WASHINGTON — Melania Trump, who last year promoted anti-cyberbullying tips as part of her child-focused kindness campaign called “Be Best,” sidestepped any comment Friday on President Trump’s recent decision to mock Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist, on Twitter.
“‘Be Best’ is the first lady’s initiative, and she will continue to use it to do all she can to help children,” Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said in a statement first reported by CNN. “It is no secret that the president and first lady often communicate differently — as most married couples do.”
A day earlier, Mr. Trump targeted Ms. Thunberg after Time magazine named her its person of the year. “So ridiculous,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”
The Trump campaign also distributed a doctored image of a Time cover with the president’s head superimposed on Ms. Thunberg’s body.
Ms. Thunberg, who has criticized the president for not responding to climate change, was quick to hit back, and received supportive messages from people like Michelle Obama, the former first lady, who, in a tweet, encouraged her to “ignore the doubters.”
The White House at first declined to issue a statement on behalf of Mrs. Trump, whose “Be Best” effort focuses on child well-being and internet kindness. The material the first lady has distributed to followers of the initiative has tips for protecting children against online harassment.
The East Wing distributed a pamphlet last year called “Talking With Kids About Being Online” that advises adults to talk to children about online manners. Among the tips: “Remind them that real people with real feelings are behind profiles, screen names and avatars.” The pamphlet was also the subject of plagiarism accusations against the first lady, claims the East Wing denied.
Mrs. Trump is fiercely protective of her own son, Barron, who is three years younger than Ms. Thunberg, and reacted sharply when his name was invoked last week during a congressional hearing.
Pamela S. Karlan, a Stanford law professor testifying in support of Mr. Trump’s impeachment, was trying to make a distinction between kings and presidents when she mentioned Mrs. Trump’s son.
“The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility,” she said. “While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”
Ms. Grisham flagged the comment for the first lady, who criticized Ms. Karlan for it on Twitter.
“A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics,” Mrs. Trump said. “Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”
Ms. Karlan later apologized.
Ms. Grisham said on Friday that there was a distinction between someone mentioning the name of the youngest Trump child at a congressional hearing, and the president mocking Ms. Thunberg, who has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.
“Their son is not an activist who travels the globe giving speeches,” Ms. Grisham wrote. “He is a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy.”