First Lady Melania Trump, who tends to avoid commenting on the political scandals engulfing her husband’s presidency, took to Twitter to blast a prominent Stanford law professor who brought up her 13-year-old son Barron during Wednesday’s impeachment hearing.

Melania Trump said Pamela Karlan should be “ashamed of herself” for making a play on words with Barron’s name while illustrating a point about the limits of executive power.

Karlan, who has taught constitutional law at Stanford since 1998, was one of four legal scholars testifying before the House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. Karlan used Barron’s name to basically say that a president can’t be treated the same as a king.

“While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” Karlan said.

Karlan’s comment received some applause in the hearing room, but the White House immediately shot back with press secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeting: “Classless move by a Democratic ‘witness.’ Prof Karlan uses a teenage boy who has nothing to do with this joke of a hearing (and deserves privacy) as a punchline. And what’s worse, it’s met by laughter in the hearing room.”

A little over an hour later, Melania Trump issued her tweet, which became the no. 1 trending topic on Twitter and generated more than 50,000 comments within a couple hours: “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”

Impeachment and President Trump

Karlan later apologized for bringing Barron’s name into argument.

“If can say one thing, I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president’s son,” she said. “It was wrong of me to do that. I wish the president would apologize for the things he’s said wrong, but I do regret having said that.”

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Not surprisingly, Karlan’s apology didn’t stop a debate from exploding on Twitter about what she said and Melania Trump’s response. And not surprisingly, the debate wasn’t just focused on whether it’s right for people to drag the names of presidents’ minor children into political debates.

People on both sides used Karlan’s comment and Melania Trump’s response as an opportunity to debate larger issues about Trump’s impeachment and the first lady’s own actions.

The president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., disparaged Karlan’s attempt “to make a joke out of a 13-year-old child.” But he also brought up her acknowledged donations to Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton, as evidence of her bias.

Other Republicans said Karlan’s comment was indicative of what they see as the Democrats’ obsession with impeaching the president. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted, “Democrats are so desperate that one of their biased witnesses is now attacking the President’s 13-year-old son. Absolutely disgraceful.”

But on the other side, people accused Melania Trump and Republicans — not Karlan — of being hypocrites and of using the president’s youngest child as “a political prop” and of engaging in “faux outrage.”

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Critics of the president filled Melania Trump’s Twitter feed with reminders of how her husband regularly insults his political enemies and how he mocked teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in September.

They also recalled when conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh referred to a 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton as “the White House dog” in 1992 and the extent to which other presidents’ daughters were regularly attacked.

But commentators also came after Melania Trump directly, called her a hypocrite. They accused her being selective in her concern for children’s well-being by noting that she publicly stood by her husband during the controversy over his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border.

Memes of the “I really don’t care do u?” jacket that Melania Trump infamously wore to visit a detention center at the border were plentiful in her feed.

©2019 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)