National media figures, who just came off a news cycle suggesting first lady Melania Trump’s 20-plus-day absence could be due to something far more sinister than kidney surgery, responded indignantly Wednesday after President Trump accused them of rumor-mongering.

The funny thing here is: Trump is completely right. The entire “Where is Melania?” news cycle was trash. The people who winked along with the the absurd conspiracy theories, which included everything from botched plastic surgery to spousal abuse, deserve all the criticism they get.

It’s true that the first lady was out of the public eye for an extended period of time. The White House explained she was tucked away following kidney surgery. Her casual appearance this week at a Gold Star event at the White House would certainly seem to suggest that nothing is amiss.

Trump and his staff are not the ones who come out of this episode looking foolish and disingenuous. That honor would go to the journalists who used her absence as an opportunity to push anti-Trump conspiracy theories.

Consider, for example, Atlantic senior editor David Frum, who tweeted on June 2, “Suppose President Trump punched the First Lady in the White House (federal property = federal jurisdiction), then ordered the Secret Service to conceal the assault. POTUS has Article II authority over Secret Service. Is that obstruction?”

Or consider senior Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith, who said elsewhere, "I wish that I didn’t suspect that the prolonged, poorly explained public absence of Melania Trump could be about concealing abuse. I wish that it was a ludicrous prospect. I wish that the @POTUS wasn’t a man with a history of abusing women, including those to whom he is married.”

Such speculation, as immoral as it maybe, is still different from reporting. So let’s look at the many news articles that sprung up around the viral, baseless conspiracy theories.

“‘Missing' Melania Trump returns to FLOTUS duty at White House,” read a headline published by USA Today.

Yahoo News’ “lifestyle” section ran an article titled, “Intriguing Theories About Melania Trump’s Absence,” wherein the author gave oxygen to a number of theories, including “she bailed” and “Her Disappearance Is an Elaborate Ruse to Make the Media Look Bad.”

Politico even published an article, titled “White House silence on Melania stokes conspiracy theories,” that make it sound as if the Trump administration is to blame for the conspiracies

On Wednesday, after the first lady provided the press with proof of life, the president tweeted, “The Fake News Media has been so unfair, and vicious, to my wife and our great First Lady, Melania. During her recovery from surgery they reported 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!”

You know what? He’s right. Certain members of the press engaged in some really, really stupid rumor-mongering, and those musings were later elevated by newsrooms. True, the press didn’t cover the rumors as fact, but they covered and reported them nonetheless.

After all that, some in media still see Trump as the bad guy in all of this.

“Trump is conflating random Twitter commenters [sic] with ‘the media’ here. A common tactic of bad faith critics. But disappointing to see POTUS do it,” CNN’s Brian Stetler said in response to Trump’s “fake news” tweet.

The New York Times took this laughable angle: “Trump Defends Melania Trump and Spreads Conspiracies About Her in the Process.”

It’s a stretch to accuse Trump of being the disingenuous one here when the argument hinges on the distinction between what members of the press say on a public formal basis and what they publish within their respective newsrooms. Yes, newsrooms didn’t formally report her “near death,” spousal abuse, etc. -- they just repeated all of the rumors that journalists and other news commentators had generated publicly on social media.

There is indeed a difference between thoughts on Twitter and formal reporting, but the issue here is: This news cycle is based 100 percent on loony theories espoused by members of the press. Is that how journalism works -- make news on social media with irresponsible speculation, then report on it?

Further, this news cycle wasn't driven by just some random people on Twitter "with big followings.” It was driven by a senior editor at the Atlantic and a senior writer at Rolling Stone, among others. The news write-ups flowed from their widely shared comments.

Put more simply, this entire clown show is 100 percent on the media, not on Trump.