Melania Trump Had 'Big' 4-Hour Operation and 'Can't Fly For One Month,' President Says

President Donald Trump said before stepping on Air Force One for the G7 summit in Quebec on Friday morning that his wife Melania Trump was not traveling with him because she had a "big operation" and cannot fly for a month—contrary to earlier statements suggesting she underwent a minor kidney procedure. 

"First lady's great, right there," the president said, pointing up toward the White House. "She wanted to go. Can't fly for one month, the doctors say. She had a big operation, it was close to a four-hour operation, and she's doing great, right there," he said, pointing up again. 

"And you know what?" he added. "She is a great first lady."

His comments were surprising given that the procedure had been described as relatively minor surgery. Melania Trump's communications director in a statement May 14, the day of her hospitalization, explained it as an "embolization procedure to treat a benign kidney condition."

"The procedure was successful and there were no complications," the statement read. "Mrs. Trump is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and will likely remain there for the duration of the week."

The president that afternoon tweeted that he was headed to the medical center to see his wife and that it was a "successful procedure, she is in good spirits."

06_06_18_MelaniaRough President Donald Trump (center), with Vice President Mike Pence (second from left) and first lady Melania Trump (center, right), attends a 2018 hurricane briefing in Washington, D.C., on June 6. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

But Melania Trump's following 26-day absence from the public eye led to speculation including some wild unfounded theories that she had left the White House and her husband. Embolization, which involves cutting blood flow to an area like an abnormal growth, is typically a minor enough procedure that general anesthesia is not required. 

President Trump's new characterization of the procedure as a "big operation" is the latest attempt to explain her lengthy absence from the gaze of the media. 

Melania Trump made her first public appearance since May 10 with her husband at a hurricane preparedness briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday afternoon. 

At the briefing, she smiled when the president said she "went through a little rough patch, but she’s doing great," but did not speak. 

The president earlier on Wednesday criticized the "Fake News Media" for "unfair" and "vicious" reporting of his wife during her surgery recovery that included "everything from near death, to facelift, to left the W.H. (and me) for N.Y. or Virginia, to abuse."

"All Fake, she is doing really well!" he tweeted.