Days after her father’s inauguration last January, new-to-Washington Ivanka Trump tweeted a picture of herself clad in a $5,000 silver Carolina Herrera gown, en route to a black-tie dinner.
After she was widely criticized for her let-them-eat-cake moment – President Donald Trump’s daughter looked terrifyingly tone deaf vamping for the camera while thousands of travelers sat stranded at airports because of her father’s sloppily imposed travel ban – Ivanka Trump admitted to friends she had made a clumsy P.R. mistake.
Almost a year into her transformation from striving Manhattan lifestyle guru to Washington power player, Ivanka Trump on Monday night proved what many of her colleagues acknowledge privately about the player behind the controlled façade: she is still prone to rookie political mistakes. And she seems blind to her circumscribed position as a self-professed champion of women who is simultaneously an unquestioning aide to a president who’s been accused of groping women.
“Just saw @Oprah‘s empowering & inspiring speech at last night’s #GoldenGlobes,” Ivanka Trump tweeted Monday night, with a link to Oprah Winfrey’s viral speech. “Let’s all come together, women & men, & say #TIMESUP! #United.”
The very mainstream sentiment was confounding on multiple levels, when expressed by the president’s daughter. Ivanka Trump last year stood by her father when he was accused by more than dozen women of unwanted sexual advances and outright assault. And her husband, Jared Kushner, even broke the Jewish Sabbath to huddle with the wounded candidate after the release in October of 2016 of the “Access Hollywood” tape.
On top of the odd sexual politics of Ivanka Trump’s selective support of the #MeToo movement, the tweet was read as an unexpected endorsement for the television star who lit up the hopes of desperate Democrats that Oprah might be the answer to dethroning Trump and his family in 2020.
In her speech, Winfrey spoke of a “new day” dawning, on the backs of empowered women “fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”
The first daughter didn’t consult with her aides on Monday night before expressing herself on Twitter. A spokesman on Tuesday declined to comment about Ivanka Trump’s private support for the #MeToo movement, or her tweet.
Friends and colleagues said the person they know would be oblivious to anything incongruous about her Winfrey support – and likely frustrated by backlash she sees as unfair.
“She thinks she is part of the feminist club,” said one New York socialite who used to be friendly with Ivanka Trump on the benefit circuit. “She truly thinks of herself as the greatest champion of women. She would see no irony in it whatsoever.”
Ivanka Trump, according to people who have worked with her, fundamentally views herself as someone who has made a career out of empowering women, even before her move to Washington, through her self-help book for working women and her affordable clothing line.
Despite promoting an administration that has threatened traditional women’s interests, like rolling back Obama-era regulations on equal pay and signing into a law a bill that allows states to withhold money from Planned Parenthood, Ivanka Trump believes she can advance women’s issues from within the White House.
But that view is out of sync with how she has come to be viewed in Washington, one year in. Once seen as a potential moderating influence on a hard-right administration, lawmakers on Capitol Hill said they have come to see her as relatively ineffectual, even on one of her signature issues, like paid family leave. Her fight for an expanded child tax credit was ultimately seen as a modest policy victory.
Heading into Year Two of the Trump administration, Ivanka Trump is still striving to elevate herself through an embrace of father, while believing she can maintain a lane of independence.
“What’s the alternative – be silent and not give support?” said one sympathetic White House aide, of her Monday night tweet. “I think she can show support for an important cause independent of the reports about her father.”
In recent months, she has tried. Last November, Ivanka Trump angered the president when she expressed outrage at the allegations lodged against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. “There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children,” she said at the time, in a rare public break from her father’s state position – that the accusers were lying. “I’ve yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts.”
It was a rare moment when Trump expressed frustration, to other aides, about his daughter’s public stance.
But it’s unlikely to happen with any regularity, according to people familiar with the First Daughter’s thinking. “A central tenet in her life,” according to one confidante, “is that her dad is and will be an amazing president.”
Supporters of the #MeToo movement were quick to call her out for trying to have it both ways. “Great!” the actress Alyssa Milano replied to Ivanka Trump’s support for Winfrey’s message on Twitter. “You can make a lofty donation to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund that is available to support your father’s accusers.”