Will Ivanka Trump Really Stand Up to Her Father?

Ivanka Trump faced criticism when—as thousands protested Donald Trump’s Muslim ban—she and her husband went partying in their fanciest clothes. Her White House influence remains a mystery.


Carlo Allegri / Reuters

You may well have seen the meme by now: Ivanka Trump in a metallic silver Carolina Herrera gown, next to a young Syrian refugee wrapped up in a silver, reflective emergency blanket.

The image was an unsubtle commentary on the glamorous photo Ivanka Instagrammed of herself and her husband, Jared Kushner, around midnight Saturday after hobnobbing with political elites at the annual Alfalfa Club dinner. As Ivanka and Kushner returned home to their children that night, other children around the country were still waiting for their detained parents in the chaotic fallout of President Trump’s travel ban.

It seemed to be a new low from Ivanka, who had been otherwise silent since her father signed an executive order banning travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries for three months. While tens of thousands of people across the country were protesting the president’s order, which indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., and lawyers flooded airports to help legal residents get home, Ivanka was publicizing her glitzy life as if nothing had happened.

The timing of her Instagram post was particularly inopportune. Ivanka was supposedly the graceful Trump, yet her tone-deaf photo in the midst of a constitutional crisis seemed more in line with her father’s character.

During Trump’s campaign, Ivanka presented herself as someone who would moderate her father’s extremism, speaking on behalf of issues she claimed to care about, like wage equality and affordable child care. Yes, she stood behind her father, but many assumed she was whispering in his ear the whole time. They hoped the self-proclaimed daddy’s girl would talk some sense into her old man.

It seems some in Washington are still looking at her to do so.

Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff under the Clinton administration and outgoing president of the Alfalfa Club, reportedly applauded club members at Saturday’s annual dinner for putting aside partisan differences as the nation’s capital becomes increasingly divided. “And in doing so, we can build the bonds needed to bring the country together and to solve some of the problems facing us today,” Bowles said, before addressing the president’s daughter.

“Ivanka, please tell your dad that we missed him tonight, and we wish him, as the leader of our country, a healthy and successful presidency.”

After all, Ivanka talked climate change with Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore after the election. She stepped down from management positions at her various fashion and lifestyle brands, and was reportedly cooking up plans to lobby Congress to expand child care for working women. The day before her father took office, Ivanka went on Good Morning America to promote her forthcoming book, Women Who Work, and reiterated her desire to support her father going forward but also “those causes I’ve cared about my whole professional career.”

But if her public persona since Inauguration Day is any indication—silent beyond the coiffed and squeaky clean photos of herself and her family posted to social media—it’s clear that either Ivanka doesn’t have as much influence over her father as many hoped, or she doesn’t care enough about issues she’s advocated for in the past to stand up for them in even the subtlest ways.

When President Trump signed his first executive order aimed at rolling back the Affordable Care Act, including many provisions that support working mothers, the former #WomenWhoWork ambassador proudly captured the moment on Instagram. While the president was reinstating the Global Gag Order, Ivanka was posting videos of her son crawling for the first time in the White House. She was silent while millions of women marched around the country to protest her father’s administration.

Then came the photo of her black-tie evening at the Alfalfa Club, where she represented her father’s administration while his executive order separated children from their families.

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Ivanka and Kushner had been observing Shabbat, as they do every weekend—from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday—and reportedly had little knowledge of the fallout from President Trump’s executive order, which he’d signed moments before sundown Friday. Yet by the time the photo was posted to Ivanka’s Instagram account, they’d had access to their phones for nearly six hours.

Are we supposed to believe that Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, hadn’t been briefed about chaos following Trump’s order at some point during those six hours? That Ivanka hadn’t seen the outcry over the travel ban on the news or her own social-media accounts before she posted the now-infamous silver dress photo on Instagram?

A Vanity Fair source “noted that Ivanka feels terrible about the post, and does not want something like this to happen again.”

However, until she signals any allegiance to the liberal values that were once entrenched in her public identity, many may perceive that Ivanka’s ideological core is as flimsy and fickle as her father’s.