It’s the kind of déjà vu that only happens in rarefied, elite New York City circles of wealth and power: when your friends’ parents keep running against your dad to become President of the United States.
This is the reality of being Ivanka Trump.
First, it was Chelsea Clinton, whom Ivanka, 38, called a good friend before the 2016 election. Now it’s Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg’s youngest daughter, Georgina Bloomberg, 37, a professional equestrian and animal rights activist. “I’m good friends with his [Donald Trump’s] kids,” Georgina told W magazine during the 2016 campaign. Four years ago, Georgina said she was grateful to have avoided the “mud slinging” that would have ensued from her father entering the political fray with Trump as his opponent. “I was not looking forward to having to watch our fathers go against each other,” Georgina said in that same interview.
Fast-forward four years and Twitter mud is being slung, with the president calling the former New York City mayor a “loser,” and a “pint sized mass of dead energy.” Bloomberg has shot back, saying the president is a “carnival barking clown” who is the laughingstock of his hometown. While President Trump hasn’t yet started a rallying cry for Mayor Bloomberg to be locked up, how will these two high-profile daughters who have been friends for decades weather the 2020 campaign?
Probably like the well-mannered born and bred Upper East Siders they are—that is to say: with composure, a stiff upper lip, and a “nothing to see here” narrative.
Or for as long as they both can muster it.
“These women respect each other, and they aren’t going to let politics affect their friendship,” said R. Couri Hay, a society publicist who knows Georgina well and has been a guest at the White House. “They have learned that what happens in politics shouldn’t affect their relationship. I’ve even heard this with Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka,” Hay told The Daily Beast. (Their usual forbearance notwithstanding, as Vanity Fair reported in the spring of 2018, Chelsea let it be known in a public forum that she disapproves of Ivanka, an adviser in the West Wing, and called out the “cruelty and incompetence and corruption” across the Trump administration.)
While Chelsea may have spoken her mind about her (former) friend Ivanka, such candor in her rarefied New York milieu is rare. “High society,” Hay says, “is polite to the extreme.” At least if you’re a woman. (Their fathers have carte blanche to trade insults.)
Hay contends that’s because the rapport between the two heiresses is genuine. “They are not superficial friends. I have known them both practically their whole lives. I just wish the Republicans and Democrats would be like Ivanka and Georgina and be willing to work across the aisle.” However, as Hay points out, “It’s not like Georgina is sneaking down to have lunch at the White House.” In other words, keeping up appearances is easier if you don’t have to see each other.
But Georgina has collided—intentionally and with good intentions—with other members of the Trump family. In October, Georgina and Lara Trump co-chaired the annual Rescue Dogs Rock NYC gala. While the Trump administration hasn’t had any hostile policies toward canines, as far as we know, their general animals rights record is spotty. A few months before the fall Rescue Dogs gala, the Trump administration said that it would weaken the Endangered Species Act, which has played a vital role in protecting at-risk wildlife.
On the New York City charity circuit, all of the details of who is a hypocrite can be glossed over—a dynamic that is key to understanding the Ivanka/Georgina friendship. “People like them aren’t going to go after each other or create any uncomfortable situations because the elite circles in New York City are so small. You have to interact with them at school drop-off, sit next to them at some fundraising event. I mean, who needs tension at a ballet or animal rights fundraiser?” Holly Peterson, a chronicler of the 1 percent and former ABC news producer, asked rhetorically.
But everyone has a red line, right? And in such a high-stakes election—Bloomberg is running for president because he has called President Trump an “existential threat” to the country—what could put a strain on the friendship? To use a twist on President Trump’s own hypothetical scenario illustrating how loyal his supporters are to him: Would the president have to start shooting horses on Fifth Avenue for Georgina, an Olympic equestrian, to rock the boat with her friend and top adviser to the leader of the free world? (Hay told me Georgina, who once said that it “sucked having the last name Bloomberg,” was upset with her father that he didn’t ban horses and carriages from Central Park.)
The reality is that the Ivanka/Georgina relationship is the antipode to what their fathers are doing. For President Trump and Mayor Bloomberg, the game is to land a punch first. For these “daddy’s girls who are the apples of their fathers’ eyes,” as Hay describes them, it’s a contest to see who can hold their poise and equanimity the longest. Ivanka is studied in the art of being unflappable. Georgina, who is an international Olympic athlete competing in a sport where she jumps over the equivalent of 14 SUVs on a two-ton animal, is certainly no slouch when it comes to being disciplined. “She [Georgina] is a steely girl,” Peterson, who is author of the book Wellington: World of Horses, told The Beast.
And therein lies the double standard of being the daughters of wealthy, powerful men who decide to run for president. Even if the friendships are sincere, there is very little leeway for women like Ivanka and Georgina to break from the BFF narrative. They are prisoners to the unspoken societal expectation of many women of their ilk to hold it in when it comes to criticizing women in their same social class. Yet rich, powerful white men like their fathers can own the “rage and anger” lane. Georgina and Ivanka, voluntarily or not so much, bear the cross of being the counterpoints, towing the friendship line for as long as fake smiles will endure. Herself the scion of financial services giant BlackRock cofounder Peter Peterson, Holly Peterson assessed the odds of either daughter losing her cool this way: “Too much is at stake. And it would ruin Ivanka’s whole aura,” she said.