Ivanka Trump is a smart person. When she’s not maintaining a stony silence about her father’s most controversial policy proposals, she speaks persuasively, if vaguely, about important issues, like job training and infrastructure.
That’s exactly what she did in a 13-minute interview with Fox & Friends on Monday morning. And it would’ve been a home run had she not called out the unexpected “viciousness” of American politics.
The baffling statement, given her father’s track record of cruelty toward anyone who criticizes or opposes him, proved yet again that even at her most polished, Ivanka Trump seems incapable of coming to terms with exactly who she represents.
“There’s a level of viciousness that I was not expecting,” Trump told the Fox and Friends. “I was not expecting the intensity of this experience.”
The Internet, of course, couldn’t tolerate her unwillingness to see what’s been obvious since her father became a politician.
To make their point, Twitter users called out President Trump’s Muslim ban, his comments about Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, his treatment of Gold Star father Khizr Khan, his role in spreading lies about Pres. Obama’s birth certificate, his use of violent language at campaign rallies, and his habit of letting crowds cheer “lock her up” about his rival Hillary Clinton.
You know who knew the presidency would be hard?
HILLARY CLINTON. Stop babying the Trumps, especially Ivanka. She’s grown.
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) June 12, 2017
More than a year into Trump becoming the most vocal booster of her father’s worthiness of the Oval Office, it’s still hard to explain how she could make such a disingenuous statement. Perhaps she was referring to specific experiences that, had she shared them, would have been sympathetic, such as derogatory comments about her children or even Barron Trump.
Although, as one Twitter user aptly pointed out, Trump’s birther crusade couldn’t have been easy for Sasha or Malia Obama.
Examples like these must be inconvenient for Ivanka. Only she knows why she’s justified her father’s behavior, so we can only guess that she sees herself like a character witness. Drawing on tender moments with her dad, she minimizes the damage he’s done to others and tells the world he’s just rough around the edges.
Or perhaps she’s been a victim of such behavior and has decided it’s not all that bad when her dad targets you; after all, if you end up a key player in the Trump empire, with hundreds of millions to your name, the biting attacks may feel ultimately inconsequential.
Trump may also just be human, subject to the same cognitive biases that we all struggle with every day. We tend to defend those we love and admire, no matter their transgressions. Cognitive dissonance — the experience of holding two contradictory beliefs — can lull us into denying our mistakes and blaming others for their reaction to our behavior.
The less generous interpretation of Trump’s Fox & Friends comments is that the Trump clan simply doesn’t believe that rules and norms apply to them. When Trump attacks an ordinary citizen, a sitting federal judge, or former FBI director, he’s within his rights to protect himself. There seems to be no line that Trump himself is unwilling to cross — and his family, including Ivanka, are happy to defend him at every turn.
Trump’s lack of public introspection about the role her father has played in making our political culture more vicious and venal isn’t that surprising at this point. But it should be something for which every interviewer holds her accountable. Otherwise, Ivanka gets free airtime to do what she does best: hawk the family brand at the expense of the American public.