Outrage over the Trump administration’s family separation policy at the US border is sweeping across the country. But one person — a self-avowed advocate of women and children — has been conspicuously silent: Ivanka Trump, who has been snapping fun family photos and fundraising for Republicans. She’s reportedly discouraging her father behind closed doors, but in public, she hasn’t said a thing.
Americans are hearing harrowing stories of children being taken from their parents. Videos and photos of immigrant kids detained — some even locked in cages — paint a disturbing picture of the United States federal government’s “zero tolerance” policy in stopping asylum seekers and immigrants at the border. A number of figures on both sides of the aisle have spoken out against the administration’s practices.
Ivanka Trump, who was supposed to be the voice for children and family issues in the Trump administration, has said nothing. Trump, 36, spent Monday attending a pair of fundraising events with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in California. The pair pulled in $3.1 million for a fundraising committee that boosts vulnerable House Republicans, according to Politico’s Playbook.
Trump wasn’t that far from the border — the trip from Los Angeles to Tijuana is about a three-hour drive — but she stayed far away from the family separation crisis.
She hasn’t released any statements or publicly weighed in on her father’s “zero tolerance” policy that is resulting in hundreds of children being separated from their parents. There haven’t even been the usual leaks of how distraught she and her husband, Jared Kushner, are behind closed doors.
Her Twitter account over the past week has fired off a handful of generic messages, celebrating the US’s successful bid for the World Cup in 2026, touting women’s responsible borrowing habits, and quoting a Chinese proverb. Some of Trump’s social media activity has celebrated the closeness of her family in a way critics have called tone-deaf: a birthday wish to her father, a Father’s Day salute to her husband and her dad, a picture of her holding her son.
The White House told CNN that Trump had met with her father on Tuesday to discuss the “images of families being separated at the US-Mexico border” and offer her support to talk to members of Congress to find a legislative solution. She reportedly called McCarthy and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). The president also talked about Ivanka during a meeting with GOP lawmakers on Tuesday evening and said she had encouraged him to stop separating families. Trump insists he wants Congress to fix the problem, even though he could do it himself.
Remember the Samantha Bee uproar? That was actually about Ivanka and immigration.
At the end of May, TBS host Samantha Bee was caught in a firestorm over calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt.” What was lost in the uproar over Bee’s language was the message she was trying to get across: that Ivanka is nowhere to be seen on her father’s immigration policies.
The comedian’s segment was on the 1,500 “missing” migrant children under the Trump administration and Ivanka’s seeming obliviousness to it as she Instagrammed pictures of herself with her own kids.
“You know, Ivanka, that’s a beautiful photo of you and your child,” Bee said as a photo flashed onto the screen, “but let me just say, one more to another: Do something about your dad’s immigration practices, you feckless cunt! He listens to you!”
There has long been a perception that Ivanka is some sort of “moderating force” to her father and that she and Kushner serve as voices of reason within the White House. But there’s little evidence to actually back up that claim.
Ivanka and Jared are often nowhere to be found during big moments in the Trump presidency. They were skiing when his first Obamacare repeal push floundered. While the president was defending racists in Charlottesville, Virginia, they were on vacation in Vermont. They didn’t keep Trump from pulling out of the Paris climate agreement. They didn’t get him to moderate his Charlottesville stance or stop him from scrapping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
During protests against Trump’s travel ban, Ivanka posted on Instagram a picture of herself and Jared dressed up to go to a party.
The first daughter told the Financial Times in September that some people have created “unrealistic expectations” for her power in the White House. “That my presence in and of itself would carry so much weight with my father that he would abandon his core values and the agenda that the American people voted for when they elected him,” she said.
And on plenty of matters, Trump has been with her father — including on items that are supposed to be part of her pro-women, pro-children platform. She backed Trump’s move to get rid of an Obama-era initiative meant to close the gender pay gap in August. After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, she said arming teachers with guns is “an idea that needs to be discussed.”
In early 2017, Saturday Night Live ran a parody perfume ad called “Complicit,” featuring Scarlett Johansson as Ivanka Trump.
In a subsequent interview with CBS News, Trump responded to the sketch, saying that if being complicit is “wanting to be a force for good,” then she is. “I don’t know what it means to be complicit, but you know, I hope time will prove that I have done a good job and, much more importantly, that my father’s administration is the success that I know it will be,” she said.
The best case for Ivanka is that she’s oblivious
I exchanged emails with two White House spokespeople asking about Ivanka Trump’s stance on family separation and her activities in recent days and have not yet received any answers. But Trump has a habit of toggling between the role of distant first daughter and shrewd policy adviser, depending on when it’s convenient for her.
In a February interview with NBC News’s Peter Alexander, she scolded the interviewer for asking about the multiple women who have accused her father of sexual harassment and assault. She said it was a “pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter.”
During the same interview, she discussed the relationship between the US and North Korea. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly griped around the same time that Trump seemed to be “playing government.”
The best case for her silence right now is that she’s oblivious. It wouldn’t be the first time she’s been accused of being tone-deaf. She and her husband snapped smiling pictures at the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem last month as violence erupted just miles away. In January, she attempted to piggyback on Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech and join in on #MeToo and Time’s Up.
Still, even first lady Melania Trump has weighed in on the family separation matter, in a statement from her spokesperson saying she “hates” to see parents separated from their children and calling for a country that “governs with heart.”
The first lady said “both sides” need to come together for a fix, apparently siding with her husband’s false assertion that Democrats are at fault for what’s happening, in one of her rare statements on public policy.
It’s still more than Ivanka — the supposed advocate for children and families — has done.
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