WASHINGTON (AFP) - Ivanka Trump distanced herself on Thursday (Aug 2) from some of her father’s most controversial policies and strident rhetoric, saying she is “vehemently against” family separations and that journalists are not the enemy.
Speaking publicly for the first time since she shuttered her eponymous fashion brand last week, the first daughter and senior advisor to President Donald Trump took a decidedly different approach than her combative father to stress that the immigration crisis has caused her anxiety.
“That was a low point for me as well,” Trump, 36, told a conference organised by news website Axios, referring to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that led to the stripping of thousands of children from their migrant parents.
“I am very vehemently against family separation and the separation of parents and children, so I would agree with that sentiment.” Ivanka’s position aligns with the opinion of everyday Americans, who polls show are largely opposed to the separations.
The immigration crisis, which swelled further when audio emerged of detained toddlers crying for their mothers, caused a firestorm and in June the president reversed course.
He ordered an end to the separations. But as of last week’s deadline, 711 of the roughly 2,500 separated children were still not reunited with their parents, and officials were unable to clarify when they would see their family.
Trump also distanced herself from her father’s relentless condemnation of the media – attacks that have raised the levels of anti-press antagonism at his recent rallies.
While saying she had “sensitivity” about why some people who feel targeted have gripes with reporters, she said the moniker with which the president has branded them is misplaced.
“No, I do not feel that the media is the enemy of the people,” Ivanka said.
The daughter may diverge from her father on their media stance, but in an effort to show he agreed with her, he actually doubled down on his ugly sobriquet for reporters.
“They asked my daughter Ivanka whether or not the media is the enemy of the people. She correctly said no,” Trump tweeted. “It is the FAKE NEWS, which is a large percentage of the media, that is the enemy of the people!”
As for the president’s immigration stance, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that while Trump “doesn’t like the idea of family separation,” he opposes undocumented aliens entering the country and wants US lawmakers to pass immigration reform.
“We haven’t been unclear what our position is here,” she said. “We want to secure the borders.”
'INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT ISSUES'
Many observers at the start of Trump’s presidency expressed confidence that Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, formed a compassionate camp in the White House and would act as a check on her father’s cruder instincts.
That failed to fully materialize. While Trump was said to have discouraged her father privately from the border policy, she said nothing publicly until after his reversal, when she thanked him for “taking critical action ending family separation.”
Last year, she urged him to keep the United States in the Paris climate accord, but her prodding fell on deaf ears and the president pulled out.
In November, as Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore faced accusations of misconduct with teen girls when he was in his 30s, Ivanka Trump declared “there’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”
But two weeks later, the president endorsed Moore, who ultimately lost to a Democrat.
As first daughter, Ivanka has traveled overseas representing the United States, attended meetings with visiting heads of state and travelled domestically, fuelling speculation she may harbour future political ambitions of her own.
“I’m really passionate about the work that I’m doing here and I’m really committed to it,” she said on Thursday.
So much so that last week she announced she was closing her fashion brand, following criticism about potential conflicts of interest and flagging sales.
Trump said she might return to the private sector “at some point,” but could not give a timetable and felt that was “unfair” to her company staff, so she decided to shutter the business.
In discussing the immigration crisis, Trump described herself as “the daughter of an immigrant” – her mother was born and raised in the former Czechoslovakia, and came to the US legally.
“So we have to be very careful about incentivising behaviour that puts children at risk of being trafficked,” said Trump, a mother of three.
“These are incredibly difficult issues, and like the rest of the country I experience them in a very emotional way."