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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - First lady Melania Trump responded to a Massachusetts librarian who rejected her gift of Dr. Seuss books while calling them “cliché” and “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures and harmful stereotypes” in an open letter.
The letter read, in part, as follows:
“Dear Mrs. Trump,
“Thank you for the ten Dr. Seuss titles that you sent my school library in recognition of this year’s National Read a Book Day...
“My school doesn’t have a need for these books. And then there’s the matter of the books themselves. You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature...
“Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.
“I am honored that you recognized my students and our school. I can think of no better gift for children than books; it was a wonderful gesture, if one that could have been better thought out. Books can be a powerful way to learn about and experience the world around us; they help build empathy and understanding. In return, I’m attaching a list of ten books (it’s the librarian in me) that I hope will offer you a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband’s administration.”
Liz Phipps Soeiro, a librarian at Cambridgeport Elementary School, faced backlash after writing an open letter rejecting Trump’s donation of Dr. Seuss books to her school. While parents supported her statements, the Cambridge School district distanced itself from the letter.
“The opinions expressed in the Horn Book editorial were those of the writer and not a statement on behalf of Cambridge Public Schools,” officials explained in a statement. The school added that the response “was not a formal acceptance or rejection of donated books, but a statement of opinion on the meaning of the donation” and reportedly “counseled” Soeiro on “all relevant policies, including donations policies and the policy against public resources being used for political purposes.”
Trump’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, later responded to the comments.
“Mrs. Trump intends to use her platform as First Lady to help as many children as she can. She has demonstrated this in both actions and words since her husband took office, and sending books to schools across the country is but one example,” Grisham said in a statement. Grisham added that the divisive nature of the letter was “unfortunate” and that Trump “remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere.”
Springfield, Massachusetts, Mayor Domenic Sarno, who presides over Seuss’ hometown, heavily criticized Soeiro’s characterization of Seuss.