WASHINGTON — First lady Melania Trump attended a White House event honoring Gold Star families Monday in her first appearance in more than three weeks after a kidney procedure.

The first lady joined the president at a reception to honor families of those killed during military service. Out of respect for the families, the White House did not allow journalists to cover the event, meaning the first lady was seen in the flesh only by the families and administration officials who attended.

Others had to wait for photos and video to hit social media – and it didn’t take long before that happened.

Video posted on Twitter showed the first lady, who wore a black sleeveless dress, strolling into the East Room accompanied by President Trump. The president showed her to a seat in the front row before he headed for the stage.

It’s the second year the Trumps have opened the White House to Gold Star families. The first lady said in a written statement after last June’s event that these families “are a unique and distinct category of individuals who should be cherished.”

Melania. Trump had not been seen in public since the overnight hours of May 10 when she and the president traveled to a Maryland military base to welcome home three Americans who had been released from captivity in North Korea. Four days later, the White House said she had been hospitalized to treat a benign kidney condition.

The closest first lady parallel to Melania Trump’s time out of the public spotlight is Bess Truman, who did few events as first lady because of discomfort around the media, said Anita McBride, a veteran of three Republican administrations who last served as chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush. Bess Truman also spent a lot of time in Missouri with her mother.

Nancy Reagan spent several weeks out of public view after a mastectomy, but continued to meet with staff and do other work behind the scenes.

Public interest in and news media coverage of first ladies exploded during the Obama administration.

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