Ivanka Trump is finally breaking her media silence, giving a wide-ranging interview to CBS News on her work in the White House, her relationship with President Trump and her own future plans.
What the first daughter said on television - including that she had no intention of mounting a future run for the presidency – matters. But there’s a larger question: Why now?
Trump and husband Jared Kushner are famously judicious about the frequency and context of their interactions with the press, unlike the elder Trump, who is known to pick up the phone and dial reporters at all hours of the night.
Ivanka Trump went months on the campaign trail without doing a media appearance. After last October’s revelation of a tape in which her father bragged about committing sexual assault, she practically went into witness protection, ducking the press and doing small events in Pennsylvania.
But the timing is telling. It’s been a rough month for her and husband Jared Kushner — and the president. So it’s apparently time for her to stress what imagemakers see as her dual role of being in the administration while standing apart from it.
President Trump’s plans to repeal and replace Obamacare has come to naught, his “Muslim ban” remains held up in court, and his poll ratings are in the ‘30’s according to many surveys. And that’s not even mentioning the administration’s messy internal politics, with chief strategist Steve Bannon getting kicked off the National Security Council Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Jared and Ivanka have been facing their own issues. According to news reports, the two have been losing many of their liberal friends, who are incensed over the Trump administration’s policies and the glamorous couple’s inability – or unwillingness – to stop them.
Trump and Kushner squelched a move from White House conservatives to rescind work protections for queer and trans people - but were M.I.A. when Attorney General Jeff Sessions pressed the administration to drop former President Obama’s guidelines requiring public schools to let trans students use bathrooms matching their gender identity.
While Ivanka met with Al Gore and expressed an interest in working on climate change, she was nowhere to be seen when her father ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back rules that would have brought the United States into compliance with the Paris agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
And the couple has also been seen as oblivious – while the president issued his “Muslim ban,” Ivanka posted an image of the two posing after a society party, a move that set off a cascade of derisive responses.
Trump’s talk with CBS seemed designed to assuage these concerns. She told interviewer Gayle King that despite public perception she has been active in expressing opposition to some of her father’s policies. “I’ll weigh in with my father on issues that I care about,” she said, advising critics not to “conflate the lack of public denouncement with silence.”
She added, “Where I disagree with my father, he knows it and I express myself with total candor.” She declined to go into details about those differences of opinion, but hinted cryptically, “Most of the impact I have over time, most people will not know about it.”
Such a stance seems especially wise from a public relations standpoint. It means that she and Kushner have a plausible claim to distance from policies that are distasteful to liberal friends, without necessarily having to articulate that outside the White House - or even if they’re privately supportive of those policies.
Ivanka Trump once wrote a memoir called “The Trump Card: Playing To Win In Work and Life.” For a time, she appeared to be losing, with headlines popping up referring to her “fall from grace,” a “tanked reputation,” a “ruined brand.”
But if her Wednesday interview is any indication, she’s still holding a lot of aces in talking to the press and public — and opponents would be foolish to count her out.
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.