Ivanka Trump rightly got slammed on Twitter overnight for two tweets in which she marked the beginning of LGBTQ Pride month, saying she wanted to “honor” her “LGBTQ friends.”
As many pointed out, the tweets are beyond hypocritical since Ivanka Trump champions, defends and never criticizes her father, the president.
All the while, Donald Trump has stripped transgender students of protections in schools, installed grotesque and overtly homophobic individuals in his cabinet ― from Tom Price to Ben Carson ― and has the anti-LGBTQ Mike Pence leading the way on domestic policy, along with many of the bigots he’s installed in the government as head of Trump’s transition team.
The latest and perhaps most solid evidence of Trump being captive to the anti-LGBTQ extremists, no matter his superficial statements on the campaign trail that had many in the media describe him as supportive of LGBTQ people: Unlike in the past eight years, the White House failed to issues a Pride proclamation yesterday, June 1, from the president, nor is the White House responding to repeated attempts by HuffPost for comment about any Pride reception at the White House, which has also occurred over the past eight years. And that’s likely because the Pence wing of the administration wouldn’t stand for it.
But Ivanka Trump is far beyond “complicit” in all of this, as Saturday Night Live dubbed her.
Ivanka Trump is dangerous.
Her behavior in sending out these tweets about LGBTQ people, as well as her supposed support for staying in the Paris climate accord and her championing of women’s equality and other issues, while refusing to condemn her father’s comments and actions, exposes that Ivanka puts herself ― and power, money and fame ― above everything else, including any friends she may have who are harmed by her father’s brutality.
But more than that, Ivanka Trump is a weapon of the haters, a P.R. tool used to soften the edges of a reckless, destructive administration that is dismantling civil rights and literally putting the entire planet at risk.
We’ve seen it all before. Look back in history, or even to the present, and you will find women used strategically to help soften the brutality of men who are dictators and authoritarians. They’re willful enablers helping to deaden the pain as the authoritarian slits the throats of the vulnerable ― rather than trying to stop him by publicly speaking out.
And we can also look to the history of conservatives and the GOP in our country on the issues affecting LGBTQ people. Back in 1986, as the Reagan administration ignored AIDS for what would be almost a decade and allowed thousands to die, the influential conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. wrote an infamous column in which he recommended that people with AIDS be tattooed. It created a backlash and tarnished the reputation of a commentator many considered to be an intellectual, thoughtful conservative.
Enter Pat Buckley, his wife, who was a prominent New York socialite. Having said nothing about AIDS in the early years ― while other New York socialites, like her friend, Judy Peabody, bravely raised money and awareness ― Buckley began putting her name to the cause after her husband’s remarks, and in 1989 she hosted an AIDS benefit, “Skating for Life,” with the Olympic skating champion Peggy Fleming, at the Park Avenue Armory. But Pat Buckley refused to do the most powerful thing she could do at the time: Condemn her husband’s comments ― which he expanded upon in a column just two weeks before the AIDS benefit, saying AIDS was “self-inflicted,” spread by “dope addicts” and “sex-driven gays.”
For her silence on his words while still hosting the benefit, I railed against Pat Buckley in columns in OutWeek magazine, accusing her of attempting to do “good public relations for her maniac husband.”
The AIDS activist group ACT UP soon organized a protest of “Skating for Life,” causing headaches for the New York upper crust social scene, as people ― those few who dared to attend after all the controversy ― were jeered by an angry crowed as they entered the event. Buckley’s AIDS charity work appeared to cease after that. Some said that it was wrong to attack Buckley, whom they say was trying to help the cause in her own way. But Buckley, by refusing to take on her husband’s comments, was simply a P.R. device for him, showing people that there was “the other half,” the softer side of Bill Buckley. She did more harm than good.
This was similarly true of Barbara Bush, who, in the second year of George H.W. Bush’s presidency, wrote a friendly reply to a letter sent to her by the executive director of the LGBTQ group PFLAG (Bush said, “we cannot tolerate discrimination against any individuals or groups in our country”) and she put candles in the windows of the White House as the AIDS Memorial Quilt was stretched out over the National Mall. This, while her husband, Reagan’s vice president who was elected president with white evangelicals among his base, continued in Reagan’s callous posture and policies toward AIDS and HIV and LGBTQ people. It was the religious right, however, and not LGBT activists, who put an end to Barbara’s efforts, whether they were intentional P.R.or not: There was such an uproar by evangelical leaders over the candles in the window that that was the last time Barbara Bush did anything like that.
Even Laura Bush was used to soften George W. Bush, after he cynically backed a federal marriage amendment in 2004 to galvanize evangelicals for his re-election campaign, demurring in interviews at the time. And in 2006 she even advised Republicans running for House seats not to run on the issue. (Laura Bush would eventually publicly come out for marriage equality in 2010.)
Whatever these women ― Buckley and the two Bushes ― truly believed, by not speaking out publicly in the moment, using the only platform they had, they only enabled their husbands further in pushing detrimental and discriminatory policies.
But Ivanka Trump’s case is a bit different ― and worse. She is, after all, not married to Donald Trump. Unlike Barbara and Laura Bush (and Pat Buckley), she is actively involved in political decision-making in the White House. She’s not the spouse who is supposed to stay out of policy-making and be silent ― at least in the narrative that women who are politicians’ spouses have been expected to follow, particularly in national politics. She has a position inside the White House as an aide to her father. And, unlike with First Ladies, there is much precedent for the children of a president to speak out against their father’s policies. Just go back and look at Patti Davis and Ron Reagan Jr.
If Ivanka Trump truly wanted to do something about her father’s reckless presidency, and the harm he is doing to the civil rights of minorities in this country, she would quit her position in the White House. (Counter to the hype, she clearly has little influence in advising him after all, the latest example being his pullout of the Paris climate agreement.) And she would become a vocal critic of the policies that she believes harm her “friends,” America and the world.
But continuing to do what she’s doing now ― staying silent about his actions while helping to soften him as she champions his presidency ― makes her an enemy of LGBTQ rights, a dangerous enabler and a P.R. weapon of Donald Trump. It’s time to disabuse her of any notion that she is a “friend” to LGBTQ people, right now.
Follow Michelangelo Signorile on Twitter: www.twitter.com/msignorile