WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — She is the powerful, glamorous first daughter, a woman even liberals hoped would be a moderating influence on her presidential father. Today, the reputation of divisive White House figure Ivanka Trump is under siege.
The impeccably presentable working mom has emerged as a lightning rod for many Americans disappointed with the Trump clan, but particularly among Democrats who had envisioned her as a voice of reason in Donald Trump’s rollercoaster administration.
The wife of close Trump adviser Jared Kushner had vowed to influence her father on multiple subjects, from child care to climate change.
But she has been branded “complicit” for letting Trump undo key pay equity rules, cowardly for her failure to speak up forcefully on issues including her father’s misogyny, and accused of co-opting feminism by convincing women that candidate Trump had their best interests at heart.
Most recently, a comedian hurled a gendered four-letter expletive at her for not adequately addressing immigration concerns.
She has attended private discussions with world leaders, including a dinner with South Korea’s president to discuss the US nuclear standoff with Pyongyang.
And she briefly sat in for Trump at a G20 meeting, earning accusations of nepotism by those miffed by her insufficient diplomatic qualifications for the role.
Recently she was bombarded with accusations of tone deafness after tweeting a photo of herself hugging her son while outrage swelled over the Trump administration policy authorizing separation of border-crossing children from their parents.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) May 27, 2018
During a segment about the policy on Wednesday’s “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” the host used the C-word to describe the first daughter, shocking language even by today’s standards.
Bee apologized Thursday, calling her verbal attack “inappropriate and inexcusable.”
“I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it,” she said.
‘Everybody loves Ivanka’
Trump has acknowledged that his daughter — poised and charming — can serve to soften his rough edges, as she did on the campaign trail.
“Everybody loves Ivanka,” the president mused last September.
“Sometimes they’ll say: You know, he can’t be that bad of a guy, look at Ivanka.”
Experts see a first daughter with extraordinary power.
“She attracts criticism too because she set herself up to be the conscience of the Trump administration,” Iowa State University history professor Stacy Cordery, an expert on first families, told AFP Thursday.
Americans, she added, are more comfortable when the president’s children maintain low profiles.
Ivanka “has an unprecedented and highly visible, yet amorphous role,” Cordery said. “That runs counter to American history and tradition.”
Ivanka has refused to describe herself categorically as Republican or Democrat. But her mysterious role as special assistant to the president has been questioned from the start.
I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night. It was inappropriate and inexcusable. I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it.
— Samantha Bee (@iamsambee) May 31, 2018
Critics argue she has not pushed back enough publicly against her father.
She presented herself as a champion of equal pay for equal work, vowing to “fight for this right alongside of him,” only to support Trump’s rollback of a key equal pay initiative once he was president.
But she has not remained silent on controversial issues.
Last August, when her father failed to directly condemn neo-Nazis after deadly violence in Charlottesville, Ivanka issued a clear denunciation, tweeting that “there should be no place in society for racism.”
1:2 There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) August 13, 2017
Months later, she broke with her father when he supported accused child predator Roy Moore in his failed Senate bid.
But it was her inability to convince Trump not to exit the Paris climate accords that exasperated many, especially after she had organized president-elect Trump’s meeting with Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio on the issue.
Ivanka is aware of the criticism directed her way.
“Some people have created unrealistic expectations of what they expect from me,” that her presence would carry enough weight with her father that he would “abandon his core values,” she told the Financial Times in September.
“It’s not going to happen,” she said. “To those critics, shy of turning my father into a liberal, I’d be a failure to them.”
In May, another former first daughter, Chelsea Clinton, weighed in to say she had little sympathy for Ivanka Trump, her onetime friend.
“She’s an adult. She can make the choices for herself,” Clinton told The Guardian. “We are responsible for our choices.”