Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s daughter and adviser, is in the spotlight after a new investigation suggests she is getting kid-glove treatment from the media because of a mix of intense PR, limited media access, and the fact that many of the media see her as “one of their own.”
In the almost-6000 word piece called “The queen of spin” for the Columbia Journalism Review, Hannah Seligson argues that Ms. Trump, while being castigated by the liberal media, for not being “a true advocate for women, the climate, or the LGBTQ community,” has largely avoided more serious criticism about some deeper scandals allegedly swirling in the background:
It’s worth asking why the news media seem to care more about Ivanka’s backing to end an Obama-era equal pay data rule than the fact she was the most senior member on a Trump Organization project in Baku, Azerbaijan, that three Democratic senators have sought to have investigated for a potential violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other infractions.
The article argues that Ivanka has carefully crafted a narrative about her time at the White House, namely that she is a “benevolent and moderating force,” pushing back against the more bullish instincts of her father, as we as a professional, smart and gracious ambassador for the Trumps, and an advocate for women’s rights.
But while Ivanka has been taken to task in a number of editorial pieces in newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times, Seligson contends that more in-depth reporting on Ivanka’s dealings has been uniquely lacking.
Pointing to a number of allegations — including claims of deception relating to the Trump SoHo and a Trump Organization project in Baja, Mexico, where buyers claimed they lost deposits after being misled — Seligson argues that a “pattern of shady, perhaps even illegal, business practices never really sticks to Ivanka, nor does it inform the media narrative about her instincts, judgment, scruples, or expertise.
Additionally, her reported role in some questionable decisions in the Trump administration, such as the firing of FBI Director James Comey (a decision now being investigated as a potential obstruction of justice) and the hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director — who was fired after just 10 days.
“I think the Scaramucci debacle is a full-on example of how bad Ivanka and Jared’s judgment is. They don’t understand proactive, sophisticated public policy communication, and have never presided over a large-scale bureaucracy that spans the globe. It shows in every personnel decision they’ve advocated for,” Bloomberg View Executive Editor Tim O’Brien told CJR.
But why is the coverage of Ivanka generally so hands-off?
The answer may have to do both with access, and also how Ivanka is seen by those in the beltway media. Citing interviews with 14 reporters and editors from major newspapers and magazines, she found many asked not to be identified out of fear of losing access to Ivanka. The article also describes a “multi-tentacled team of communication professionals” pushing back against any negative coverage of Ivanka and her husband (and Senior Adviser to President Trump) Jared Kushner.
But it also may have something to do with Ivanka’s Manhattan elite views that she shares with members of the media, and how she rubs shoulders with media elites on a regular basis:
One possible explanation is that some in the media see Ivanka—even more than Kushner—as one of their own. She is the kind of person they would have lunch with or see in passing at parties and exclusive conferences. During a recent interview with the president, Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal, told the First Daughter, who popped into the meeting, “It was nice to see you out in Southampton a couple weeks ago,” referring to their run-in at the summer party of Lally Weymouth, senior associate editor of The Washington Post, and the eldest child of Katharine and Philip Graham.
Additionally, two reporters told CJR that Ivanka is a “frequent source for journalists”, usually on background.
As a possible example, Seligson points to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, who personally socialized with the Trump children over the last decade. While Seligson notes that Scarborough has criticized Ivanka, he has also kept more serious criticism for Kushner and “never takes Ivanka to task for her own suspicious business practices.”
Perhaps more seriously for holding various members of the Trump administration to account for their decisions, and the agendas they are advancing, Seligson notes the following about not only the media bubble but also the strong PR shaping of the Ivanka narrative:
“What’s significant from a public interest standpoint is how much of the narrative about the First Daughter is being filtered through an evolving group of PR advisers inside and outside the White House,” she writes. “What’s less clear is how close that information is to the truth.”
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY