It has been about a month since Ivanka Trump became the first daughter – but the media is still struggling to reconcile competing narratives about her many personal and political roles.
Headlines have ranged from different lifestyle angles to full-blown political features, focusing on anything from her policy initiatives to her seemingly sinking clothing brand. One day, it’s Ivanka causing scandal at the pilates studio next door. The next? She’s sitting down with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and meeting with Congress about issues that matter to her – women and families.
The media is struggling: How do you cover someone who you don’t understand? Where do you place someone in the Washington political sphere when the subject herself doesn’t know where she sits?
As the President’s daughter and his almost constant companion, Ivanka is too weighty to be considered a simple D.C. socialite. With her sitting in meetings with foreign leaders and her husband being a top advisor to the President, she’s far too political to just be “the President’s daughter.” With her father and Kellyanne Conway publically endorsing her brand, she’s no longer just a “woman who works.”
Instead, the media has taken snapshots of Ivanka acting in the various roles she seems to play.
The First Lady Surrogate
As a woman whose namesake brand primarily consists of clothes and shoes, perhaps this is not surprising – but Trump is already attracting the type of Washington media attention typically reserved for First Ladies.
— The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 17, 2017
— Nicole Pagano (@NicolePagano) February 23, 2017
While this kind of coverage might be bestowed onto the first daughter due to Melania staying in New York until the summer, Ivanka has been quite the stand-in FLOTUS thus far.
There are the standard “style file” articles, which archive and itemize her various looks around the President. Just like we saw with Michelle Obama, there have been various reports of Trump adjusting to the D.C. fitness scene. While Michelle enjoys her SoulCycle classes, Ivanka apparently prefers Flywheel – but she may not be going back to Solidcore pilates anytime soon.
In Palm Beach county, local news covering arrival of Air Force One and motorcade w/ Trump, Abe, Ivanka. Reporter describing Ivanka's outfit
— Seth Berman (@sethjberman) February 10, 2017
It has been well-documented that Ivanka has had the trust, and the ear, of her father long before his White House bid – and the media has continued this narrative.
USA Today dubbed Ivanka the “one steady constant” in the turbulent Trump White House, noting her front-row appearances during Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s visits.
“In one sense, Ivanka’s prominence is natural,” Maria Puente wrote in USA Today. “She really is close to dad and he is proud of her. In another sense, it’s strategic…”
The Wall Street Journal reported that “language critical of a global climate deal was struck from an executive order” that was in the works at the request of she and her husband, Jared Kushner. The New York Times also reported that the duo had a hand in scrapping an LGBT rights rollback.
“They expressed their dissatisfaction to Mr. Trump’s other advisers, and then weighed in directly with the president, who opposes same-sex marriage but has spoken out against discrimination,” Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman wrote for the Times.
The Ethics Problem
The most recent of topics, however, has been Ivanka’s business woes. Ever since retail department stores like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus decided to cut her line from their Fall 2017 inventories, and her namesake sweaters have been shoved onto clearance racks, both the President and members of his political team have come to her defense.
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
The President tweeted that Ivanka had been treated “unfairly” and called her “a great person.” For added emphasis, he added “Terrible!” at the end.
"Go buy Ivanka's stuff!" Kellyanne Conway tells "Fox & Friends" viewers from the White House briefing room. pic.twitter.com/noIhnVgcAk
— Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) February 9, 2017
Kellyanne Conway, a then-cable news constant, told viewers of “Fox & Friends” to “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff!”
The press unsurprisingly had a field day with this one. The Atlantic pondered if Kellyanne would face dismissal due to the public endorsement (the answer was no, she would be “counseled”). Politico made note of Conway’s violation of the executive branch’s ban on staff endorsing products or companies, and The New York Times was quick to point out the outside groups and individuals that condemned the plug.
While the media has been keen to take Ivanka Trump in pieces, and as each news story comes, it’s important to remember that Ivanka is not just the President’s daughter, a frequent West Wing-er, or a powerful businesswoman – she’s all three simultaneously.