WASHINGTON ― Ivanka Trump, who presents herself as a champion of women’s empowerment and a moderating influence on her father, President Donald Trump, has been silent so far on sexist tweets he sent Thursday morning attacking a female television host.
Trump targeted MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, describing Brzezinski as “crazy” and having a “low I.Q.,” and claiming that he had once seen her “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” Those tweets drew bipartisan condemnation. But it’s unknown whether they bothered Ivanka Trump, who serves as an adviser to her father and is one of the highest-ranking women in the White House. As of Friday morning, spokespeople had not responded to requests for comment, and her Twitter account has been mute on the subject. Instead, she has posted an article supporting her father’s efforts to help veterans and a photo of an American flag.
Ivanka Trump could be best situated to question these personal attacks on women. She is described as one of the few people who can successfully deliver criticism to her father, and she is portrayed, accurately or not, as a behind-the scenes moderator. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told CNN on Thursday, for example, that she may “go through [Trump’s] daughter, with whom I have developed a relationship,” to address her concerns about the tweets.
Ivanka Trump has also made promoting gender equality a signature political issue, while building a corporate brand on the kind of oblivious feminism in which women ― particularly privileged women ― are urged to find a “work/life rhythm that’s optimal for you.”
Ivanka Trump is also reported to have tried to temper her father’s impulses in the past. There were reports, for example, that she reached out to Planned Parenthood’s head, ultimately proposing that abortion services be made into an independent arm. Instead, the Trump administration’s budget proposal blocks Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds. And while she reportedly worked to include a paid family leave policy in the federal spending plan, progressives still criticized the overall package as terrible for low-income women who rely on services like SNAP benefits.
When asked in April why she doesn’t speak out on issues like Planned Parenthood and women’s rights, she said, “I would say not to conflate lack of public denouncement with silence.”
It would be the height of hypocrisy to claim the mantle of women’s empowerment while allowing a family member to continue such abusive conduct. Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough
Policy is one thing. But President Trump has a long history of publicly degrading women’s appearances, and more than a dozen women have accused him of making unwanted sexual advances. (He has denied the allegations.) This isn’t even the first time he has launched a personal attack on Brzezinski ― in 2016 he called her “crazy” and “very dumb” and accused her of having “a mental breakdown.”
As she did following Thursday’s Brzezinski tweet, Ivanka Trump has been almost entirely silent about those previous episodes. When asked earlier this week about her father’s Twitter use, she said she tries “to stay out of politics,” but that his “political instincts are phenomenal.” In the past, she has also defended her father, saying that while she has “heard the criticism from the media,” she personally felt that he “encouraged me and enabled me to thrive.” In another instance, she said she was surprised by the “level of viciousness” in Washington politics.
There was one notable exception to the rule: when she confronted her father ― “eyes welled with tears, her face reddened,” according to the New York Times ― after the “Access Hollywood” tape leaked during the campaign last year revealing Trump bragging about grabbing women “by the p***y.” Ivanka publicly called the remarks “clearly inappropriate and offensive.”
But if that’s what it takes for Ivanka Trump ― balancing her strange role as businesswoman, political adviser and daughter ― to speak out, it will be hard for critics to view her as any kind of feminist in the White House. As far as public statements go, the bar was set high in the case of the “Access Hollywood” tape: Her father was under intense political pressure, having been caught boasting — truthfully or not — about his ability to commit sexual assault.
Brzezinski and Scarborough also appeared to allude to Ivanka Trump in a joint op-ed they published in The Washington Post on Friday in response to Trump’s Thursday tweets targeting them.
“We were heartened to hear a number of Republican lawmakers call out Mr. Trump for his offensive words and can only hope that the women who are closest to him will follow their examples. It would be the height of hypocrisy to claim the mantle of women’s empowerment while allowing a family member to continue such abusive conduct.”