US First Lady appears to condone husband's criticism of teenage activist

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, 16, leading a Fridays For Future rally demanding action against climate change, at Piazza Castello in Turin, northern Italy, on Friday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, 16, leading a Fridays For Future rally demanding action against climate change, at Piazza Castello in Turin, northern Italy, on Friday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON/TURIN • Mrs Melania Trump on Friday appeared to condone her husband's criticism of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, saying through a spokesman that her 13-year-old son, Barron, is in a different category from the Swedish teenage climate activist "who travels the globe giving speeches".

"He is a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy," spokesman Stephanie Grisham said in an e-mailed statement the day after President Donald Trump said it was "ridiculous" Greta had been named Time's Person of the Year.

The First Lady's apparent acceptance of her husband's actions stood in contrast to the work she is doing through her Be Best initiative to combat online bullying and teach children to be kind.

The President tweeted on Thursday that "Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!".

Greta, who has been criss-crossing the globe by car, train and boat - but not plane - to demand action on climate change told reporters in Turin that she was headed for some downtime. She travelled there by train and car from Madrid after attending a UN climate summit in the Spanish capital. "I will be home for Christmas and then I will take a holiday break because you need to take a rest," she said. "Otherwise you cannot do this all the time."

Still, the renowned activist showed plenty of energy as she addressed a rally in Turin, the birthplace of carmaker Fiat, in one of Italy's main industrial and polluting regions. She joined thousands of students at a protest to pressure the government to take more action to curb carbon emissions.

"2019 is almost over. We must make sure that 2020 is the year of action, is the year when we bend the global emissions curve," she told the youthful crowd.

"We are going to put pressure on those in power, we are going to make sure that they will act and they will take responsibility."

ASSOCIATED PRESS, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 15, 2019, with the headline 'US First Lady appears to condone husband's criticism of teenage activist'. Print Edition | Subscribe