Melania Trump's remarkable, and totally needless, public relations snafu — related to her visit to a Gulen charter school in Oklahoma last week — could have been worse, but she was partially saved by the carelessness of the media. (There is an immigration angle lurking in this story.)
Did she not know, did her staff not know, that the Dove School of Discovery she visited in Tulsa was related to the cult of the conservative Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, now living in the Poconos, who is at serious odds with the President of Turkey, Recep Erdogan? The administration is having enough trouble with Turkey without such stumbles.
Now, while I assume that the first lady's staff reads the newspapers, they might have missed the Gulen-Erdogan relationship noted above. Turkey regards Gulen, and his numerous followers, as terrorists. Let's just assume the staff's (and her) ignorance on this point and move on to what must be routine.
When the first lady is going to visit a school, the staff probably, or should, sees what it can find out easily about that school before such a visit is planned. If she is going to a school that has had a mass murder, she should know ahead of time, for example. As part of the quick vetting, the staff probably touches bases with the state's senators, lets them know what she is thinking of doing, and asks: "Will this backfire on us?"
Let's assume that the senatorial staffs are equally unknowledgeable — or are not consulted.
The next thing to do is to simply conduct a Google search.
I did that, and after spending a couple of seconds on a batch of bland and positive listings, which one typically finds in such a search, I ran into this: "Dove Charter Schools, foundation under scrutiny for financial irregularities", and then, a couple of items later, an investigative report on the Dove Schools by the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector.
At this point, the White House staffer might read a little of one or the other of these reports, and find out that millions of public tax dollars are missing in a complex financial transaction involving the schools' rental payments, and what happened to them (they were moved to another Gulen cult organization).
So — even with the apparent total ignorance of the diplomatic implications of such a visit — the staffer would then alert the first lady that maybe she should pick another school. None of that happened.
As noted earlier, the situation could have been worse for the White House except for the press coverage (in both the Washington Post and the New York Times). The Post, at least covered the visit to the Tulsa school, with a headline that focused on the diplomatic problems: "First lady's school visit raises eyebrows in Turkey".
The reporter either ignored or did not know about the school's and the cult's interwoven finances. The Times article on the trip did not mention the Dove School visit at all.
Neither paper noticed another reason why Mrs. Trump should have not visited Dove Schools, which is their policy to ignore unemployed American school teachers at hiring time, recruiting instead H-1B teachers from Turkey, an odd usage of American tax dollars. This practice is all too typical of the Gulen-related schools, generally.
In the three years between 2015 and 2017, Dove sought to hire 25 people through the H-1B program.
Maybe the first lady's staff in the future should look a little more carefully at the sites she visits, and thus publicizes.