Who is 'Mercedes' Trump?

Who is 'Mercedes' Trump?
Trump calls Melania 'Mercedes' during CPAC speech
American Conservative Union via Reuters

Melania Trump may have been keeping a low profile in recent months, but surely her husband hasn’t forgotten about her entirely?

Apparently not, according to viewers of Donald Trump’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) speech last night (24 February), who have accused him of getting her name wrong.

Standing before a throng of admirers at the event, which took place just outside of Washington, the former president, 77, gushed about how “people love” his 53-year-old wife.

“Well look, my wife, our great first lady, she was great… people love her,” he said.

Then, as the crowd offered the Slovenian-born former FLOTUS a standing ovation, he added: “Oh look at that, wow.

“Mercedes, that’s pretty good!”

Commentators were quick to suggest that by “Mercedes” he meant Melania, and that the whole thing was an embarrassing slip-up.

However, others were quick to defend the president, insisting that his comment was directed at someone else.

Mercedes Schlapp appears at the conference alongside her husband Matt Schlap, who is chair of the American Conservative Union

“Mercedes Schlapp is a key organiser in CPAC and was present during the speech,” one Reddit user pointed out.

“It seems likely Trump was giving her a shout-out.”

They went on: “In the context of the fact that a key political player with the name Mercedes was in [the] audience there, it seems far more likely Trump was throwing out a line in her direction rather than him randomly referring to his wife as a German luxury sedan.”

This point was reinforced by Schlapp herself, who tweeted that the confusion was "fake news at its finest".

Still, given Trump’s age and that of the president he hopes to dethrone, Joe Biden, there has never been greater scrutiny of the two men’s mental faculties.

Biden, 81, has insisted that he is mentally and physically well enough to continue in America’s top job, but Trump continues to take aim at his counterpart's faculties.

At one point during his CPAC address, the presumed Republican presidential nominee mocked his rival by imitating his State of the Union speech, and quipping: “This is what we have negotiating nuclear weapons."

Yet, experts on ageing insist there’s no real evidence that either man is suffering from cognitive decline.

They told Reuters that verbal slip-ups – such as mixing up names or dates – don’t necessarily indicate a deterioration in mental acuity.

The five professionals interviewed by the news agency stressed cognitive assessments can only be made by doctors via special in-person examinations and tests, and warned that judging Biden or Trump’s mental acuity from news clips and interviews can be dangerously inaccurate and misleading.

"We make mistakes. The probability of slip-ups rises as we get older. That has nothing to do with judgment," said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Someone commenting on Trump turning right when he should have turned left? Big deal. Tripping? Join the club. A misspoken word? It happens to all of us. None of us would survive a 24/7 camera."

Biden's mental acuity continues to be a source of concern for the Democratic party(Getty Images)

Age has nonetheless become a major issue in this election, especially for Biden, the oldest person ever to occupy the Oval Office.

Some 78 per cent of respondents in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll - including 71 per cent of Democrats - said they thought Biden was too old to work in government, with 53 per cent thinking the same of Trump.

The age issue was thrust front and centre earlier this month after Special Counsel Robert Hur, a Republican former U.S. attorney during Trump's administration, said in a report on Biden's handling of classified documents that the president was a "well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory" who was not able to recall to investigators when his son, Beau Biden, died.

Biden angrily denied Hur's allegations, saying in a White House appearance that "my memory's fine." However, in the same speech, he confused the president of Mexico for Egypt's.

Still, Trump has recently made some verbal blunders, too. During a speech on 19 January, he confused Nikki Haley with former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He also suggested former Democratic President Barack Obama was still in office.

During his CPAC speech, Trump insisted that he'll win the 2024 presidential election(Getty Images)

Elliott M. Stein, a geriatric psychiatrist based in California, said misstatements can be due to a number of things, including a bad night's sleep or being distracted.

"This is especially true of someone who is under time pressures or situation pressures, or being interviewed or in the public eye," Stein said.

Trump regularly gives speeches of one to two hours, during which he frequently veers off his teleprompter.

Dr. Eric Lenze, head of the department of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said the focus should not be just on mistakes.

"It's also what someone gets right,” Lenze said.

“Did they say 25 things right and one thing wrong? Then that's pretty darn good. Look at what they're getting right, especially in spontaneous speeches.”

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